cover image The (Mostly) True Story of Cleopatra’s Needle

The (Mostly) True Story of Cleopatra’s Needle

Dan Gutman. Holiday House, $18.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8234-5484-6

Employing even keeled pacing and distinctively rendered characters, Gutman (the My Weird School series) chronicles how Cleopatra’s Needle became a New York City landmark in this delightfully fact-ional blend of history and adventure. In an introduction, the novel’s unnamed contemporary narrator ventures through Central Park with their mother and younger sister. Upon arriving at their destination—the eponymous obelisk—their mother, “who makes her living as a storyteller,” regales her children with the history of the monument. Via varying POVs—including that of an Egyptian boy in 1460 BCE, a female inventor in 1880s N.Y.C., and others—Mom explains how Cleopatra’s Needle was commissioned by Pharaoh Thutmosis III in the granite pits of Aswan, Egypt, which she gleans from the hieroglyphics etched into the structure, and its subsequent removal from the country. Each successive event in the obelisk’s history is rendered with keen attention to sociopolitical details, including housing insecurity and child enslavement. These weighty topics are counterbalanced by the protagonists’ diary-style narrations, which ground this sweeping introduction to the lesser-known history of an iconic monolith. Ages 8–12. (June)