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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bodyguards, written by Ed Butts with art by Scott Plumbe. Annick Press, 2012. $14.95 ages 12 and up

"But having power has its dark side. If you're the leader, it's hard to tell who your friends are and who just wants to get close to you to win your favor. Others will disagree with your decisions. Worse, history is full of stories about leaders who were the victims of assaults, kidnappings and even assassinations. As long as there have been people in power, there have been bodyguards..."

Oh my! It's always a bit disconcerting to learn how much you don't know about a subject. I had some smattering of an idea about the work of bodyguards and might have even been able to guess at a bit more, but after reading this new book by Ed Butts, I feel that I have had a unique history lesson in those who serve to protect. They have been at work since ancient civilization and continue to train today.

So we begin with the pharaohs, the supreme ruler and a god to his people. At home he was protected by the 'priestly guards' and in battle by the 'Braves of the King':

"A Brave of the King was treated better than an ordinary soldier. He received extra rations of food and wine, and he didn't have to pay taxes. He also knew that if he died in battle, the pharaoh would pay the cost of having his body mummified and buried."

From the Spartan guards of Greece to Roman gladiators, on to the Samurai of Japan, the Wild West and those who protect for a variety of reasons in modern times, Ed Butts entertains and informs with personal stories throughout history about these men and women. Because of  their designated roles, some have even changed history. I was particularly interested in the story of the Terra Cotta Army.The story of Qin the First Emperor, tells of a man who was terrified of death, and he wanted protection when that day finally came. He believed he would rise again. It wasn't until 1974 that the first soldier from the Terra Cotta Army was discovered:

"From what's been found so far, Qin's deathly army of bodyguards numbers over a thousand terra cotta soldiers, but it is estimated that the total number could be eight thousand. The army even has horses and  chariots. Every figure is unique. No two faces are the same, but each one looks like an authentic soldier from his hairstyle to the soles of his sandals." Amazing!

The stories are intriguing and well-told, in conversational language that makes them very accessible to middle and high school readers. They are varied; some even well-known. Anyone interested in being a bodyguard will find a very clear description of the training that takes place today to ensure protection for all. Following the text, you will find a glossary, a timeline of bodyguards through the ages, a bibliography and an index.

The illustrations are attention-grabbing, brightly-colored, light-infused and even using graphic-novel style panels to add interest and understanding. Numerous case files and information boxes are carefully placed to add to this fascinating world of protection at all costs.

This will an easy sell to those who love nonfiction, graphica and historical events...ancient to modern times.

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