Vicki León writes for both young adult and adult audiences, and is best known for her humorous Uppity Women and Outrageous Women series. Her latest adult title is sure to please history and science readers of all ages who enjoy their nonfiction in short bites. A great title and colorful cover add to the appeal.
Adult/High School–In breezy, studiously unserious, and extraordinarily teen-friendly prose, León alternately marvels at and gently ridicules the ancient denizens of the Mediterranean for their knowledge (or lack thereof) of the physical world. Of her 87 very loosely organized and seemingly randomly selected vignettes, some take on the construction of the Coliseum and are superb pieces of short-form. But most offer a more glancing, tangent-laden appreciation of their subjects, ranging from profound mysteries of the world to relatively minor factoids. One of her more compelling narrative techniques (one that effectively exonerates her more snarky comments about ancient ignorance) is her penchant for linking ancient superstitions and misunderstandings to modern ones–our ongoing love affair with poisonous lead products and astrology, as two examples. A more scholarly author might wish for a rigorous organization by subject matter or chronology. Such a structure would almost certainly add coherence and unity to the text, but it would also dampen the essential charm of a collection called How to Mellify a Corpse–a charm that speaks to its potential teen appeal. Encouraging serendipitous discovery over academic study, the collection presents teens with a fun, funny, eminently browsable account of the eccentricities of a culture too often encountered by teens only in stuffy textbooks.– Mark Flowers, John Kennedy Library, Solano County, CA