Ten Queens: Portraits of Women of Power by Milton Meltzer Biography Review


Meltzer, Milton. Ten Queens: Portraits of Women of Power. Dutton Children’s Books: New York, NY, 1998. ISBN 0525456430

Plot Summary: 

This book goes over some of the most influential and powerful women who have ever lived. From Esther, Queen of old, to Catherine the Great, this book goes over the accomplishments of these amazing women

Critical Analysis:

I really enjoyed this book. Having recently been told that women shouldn’t lead, reading this book was a reinforcement that yes, women can and should lead. These remarkable women changed the world around them through their courage, their strength and their will, and Meltzer describes it perfectly. Fast paced and easy to read, this book goes through the lives of ten of the most prominent and influential queens this world has seen. The thing I love the most about this book is that it goes over their lives, not just the period for which they ruled. You get  a lot of feedback and history to understand how these women came to power and why they were the way they were. This is very much a TBR for everyone.

Review Excerpts: 

From Publishers Weekly:

“In an enticing mix of history and biography, Meltzer (American Revolutionaries) reveals many events and personal characteristics that contributed to 10 women rulers’ rise to power. Covering a 2000-year time span, the book’s subjects unfold chronologically and include well-known queens such as Cleopatra and Elizabeth I, as well as the lesser-known Boudicca (who led a revolt against the Romans circa A.D. 60) and Zenobia (who sought to establish her own united kingdom of the East in A.D. 269). Deftly placing each queen in historical context, Meltzer conveys the complexity of power and those who seek it. And, while maintaining a brisk pace, the text nevertheless raises political and ethical questions. “

From School Library Journal:

” Meltzer writes traditional political history. He has a storyteller’s flair and an eye for the small details and anecdotes that bring these queens to life. An added note explains the difficulties researchers face in sifting legend from fact and in weighing historical evidence. Colorful expressionistic paintings, boldly stroked onto unframed panels, enrich the pages. Decorative touches of flowers and jewels on the vibrant portraits celebrate the women’s wealth and femininity. While the sources of the quotations that are woven into the accounts are not identified, there is a bibliography of standard histories consulted. Maps and an index add to the usefulness of the book for reports, and the well-spaced lines of text make the pages inviting to read. This book will grace the history shelves and provide pleasure to its readers.”

From Kirkus Reviews:

“Meltzer (Weapons and Warfare, 1996, etc.) pulls together what is known and what might be inferred about ten women who held power and used it.”


Other books about powerful women:

The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir ISBN 0345425502

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir ISBN 0345434870

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie ISBN 0679456724

Other books by Milton Meltzer:

Ten Kings: And the Worlds They Rule ISBN 0439312930

Underground Man ISBN 978-0152055240

There Comes a Time: The Struggle for Civil Rights ISBN 0375804145


Audacity by Melanie Crowder (Mod 3)


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Crowder, Melanie. Audacity. Speak: New York, 2015. ISBN 9780147512499

Plot Summary:

Clara Lemlich is a Russian Jewish immigrant living in New York City. She is forced to work in the garment factory to help support her family. When Clara realizes how horrendous the working conditions are, she works tirelessly to fight for women’s rights in the workplace. Inspired by a true story, this novel is about girl power and spirit.

Critical Analysis:

This is a beautiful and powerful novel of strength, determination, will, and fighting for justice. Insanely vivid and at times, heart breaking, this novel is a must read, especially for young women and men. Starting off in Russia, this novel makes you understand what it is like to be an immigrant. They travel across the world, facing the most heartbreaking changes on their way, only to realize that dreams are impossible, no matter where you live. Clara refuses to accept that as her reality. When she begins to understand the conditions they are placed in, she fights with courage to change things for the better.

The book flows beautifully. It is well paced and really touches its readers.

At the end of the book, there is a historical note for readers, explaining the real story of Clara Lemlich. I think that’s very important to include in historical novels. Knowing that it was real gives us faith and hope that we too can change the world.

Example Poem: 

(the man on the soapbox explains)
means no one is better than anyone else
everyone shares

the same rights
the same protection
the same opportunity

no matter their station
no matter their religion
no matter their gender.

At last!
I have a name for the ideas in my head.

He gives me pamphlets
invites me to lectures
asks questions
I do not yet
have answers for.

At last!
There is work for my mind in England.”

This excerpt is on page 87. I chose this passage, not because it’s particularly beautiful or rhythmic. I chose it because it is applicable to society, then, now, and forever. While we no longer have little girls working in unsuitable conditions in factories that are incredibly dangerous and get paid next to nothing with no benefits and no breaks, we have a lot of injustice in this world still. When I was trying to figure out who I was politically, socialist seemed to be the right term. A term that means justice. A term that means diversity. A term that means equality. You may or may not be a socialist, and that’s okay. The reason why this passage struck out at me, especially with the events of the past few months, we need the reminder that this is how it used to be, so it shouldn’t still be this way. And while the text may not be particularly poetic, the meaning is beautifully poetic.