Book Review : The Pirates Of Pompeii
The Roman Mysteries
By Caroline Lawrence
It is late August of A.D. 79. The Roman world is reeling from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Hundreds of refugees are living in a makeshift camp, trying to come to terms with what has happened. Then even more tragedy strikes: the camp’s children begin to disappear. Flavia Gemina and her friends Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus are determined to find out more and start to investigate a powerful and charismatic man known as the Patron. A dangerous trail leads them to the caves and grottoes of Sorrento, where they encounter pirates, slave dealers and possible death. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I was surprised at the bits of brutality shown with the slavery in this book written for children. I was talking to my eleven year old, and he said that it’s part of history and so it should be in the book – and he is right. It’s a good opening for a dialogue with a class or your own children.
Here are some of the facts mentioned:
Eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Pompeii and the surrounding area were covered in thick ash, in places up to 20′ deep.
Titus was the commander who burned the temple in Jerusalem in about 70 A.D.
The Romans worshipped the pantheon of gods originally instituted by the Greeks.
Slavery was a practice under Roman law.
Roman children wore a special charm around their neck called a bulla.
Roman children drank watered down wine.
Slaves were crucified (though a runaway was more likely to be branded).
The Roman government feared a slave uprising.
Though The Pirates of Pompeii would be listed as historical fiction, there was a lot of liberty taken because so little information is available about non-political figures at that time. I believe it is a good way to help kids identify with history.
A few images of the remains of Pompeii:
Mosaic at a fish market
Wall painting from the Villa of the Mysteries
Plaster casts of people who died in Pompeii. Giuseppe Fiorelli developed the technique of filling the cavities with plaster of paris to create the forms of the figures in their dying moments. When the plaster dried, the ash was chipped away and the casts remained.
This book is aimed for the tween audience. It is the first that I’ve read and it was fine as a stand alone book, though it is apparently number 3 in the series.
3 out of 5 stars
This book reminded by of The Magic Tree House written for an older audience. My readers at this level have enjoyed the I Survived books and The Children’s Illustrated Classics (Count of Monte Cristo, Frankenstein, ect.) – if you can find them in a thrift shop.
Though not historical fiction, this age also loves the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans (and it’s more gruesome than The Pirates of Pompeii).