Monday, October 09, 2006


POMPEII: LOST AND FOUND by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (Knopf)
The author of the wildly popular Magic Tree House series departs from her usual format to offer her readers this special trip back in time. Opening like the pro she is, the drama takes off from the get-go, as Vesuivius explodes on the second page. "Over the next eighteen hours, poisonous gasses filled the air. Tons of hot ash rained down on Pompeii until the town was completely buried." Now that Osborne has her reader's attention, she spends the bulk of the book not focusing on the death, but instead, the bustling life and vibrant culture of one of the wealthiest communities in the Roman Empire. The artwork in this book is done in a unique "frescoe" style, meaning that the illustrator paints pigment on plaster while it is still wet or fresh (or fresco, in Italian), a style that gives the pages an evocative look of being weathered by the ages. Some children have a certain affinity for books about disasters (The Titanic has a big following, for example), and they will not be disappointed here. Though the end of Pompeii was certainly a grim day in history, the treatment is tasteful, celebrating more of the good than the horrific, and allowing that ancient world to spring to life again within these pages. (7 and up)

Also of interest:
THE HERO SCHLIEMANN: THE DREAMER WHO DUG FOR TROY by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd (Candlewick) If your young reader digs archeology, they will be fascinated with the compelling account of a swindler who claimed to have found the ancient city of Troy. Whose story was the real one? The volume may be slim, but it contains lots to consider...and to discuss in a classroom. (8 and up)

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