Wednesday, March 2, 2011

That's Ancient History

I’ve always enjoyed reading historical fiction, and some of the best historical fiction books I’ve read are children’s books.

One of the first ones I remember reading is Detectives in Togas, written by Henry Winterfeld in 1956. Although the story is set in Rome, the author drew his inspiration from an inscription found on a wall during the excavations in Pompeii that translated means “Caius is a dumbbell.” That was just funny enough to make me curious!

The fictional Caius in the book may not be very smart, but he plays a crucial role in the story. Mr. Winterfeld also wrote one sequel, Mystery of the Roman Ransom. He had a way of making history entertaining to read about, and these books, among others, inspired me to study Roman history in college.

The Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence is a newer addition to the genre. The 17 books in this series follow the adventures of Flavia Gemina, daughter of a Roman sea captain, and her friends Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus as they solve mysteries. The author uses vivid, but sometimes grim, imagery which makes readers feel like they are truly a part of the story. I found the description of the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in the second book, The Secrets of Vesuvius, particularly riveting. The books are full of historical details, and many of them include maps and glossaries to help in understanding ancient Roman times.

Another good read is The Last Girls of Pompeii by Kathryn Lasky, which is set in Pompeii in AD 79 at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius. It’s the story of Julia, a daughter from a wealthy and powerful family, and her slave girl Sura. Julia was born with a withered arm, so her family considers her a disgrace. They plan to put her in the service of the Temple of Damia, and sell Sura. The eruption of Vesuvius gives the girls a chance to create new lives for themselves.

Check out these and other historical fiction books at the library!

Vicky @ Warrenton

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