Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The Last Girls of Pompeii by Kathryn Lasky
You kind of know up front how this book is going to end. It's the story of two teenagers who have no freedom—Julia, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and Sura, Julia's slave. Julia's prospects in life are dim because she was born with a deformed arm and at that time it was considered a curse. Well, it's 79 A.D. and they live in Pompeii, so you can guess that they will be trying to escape the horrible eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. In spite of knowing something about the ending, I found the details of life in Pompeii to be fascinating. Lasky obviously did a lot of research into Roman religious practices (lots of animals are sacrificed), wedding rituals, food (flamingo tongues!), gladiator flights, and more. My only criticism is that the actual eruption of the volcano was almost anticlimatic—their escape seemed awfully easy. This book was personally fascinating to me because I actually visited Pompeii for spring break and walked those same streets. This is great for kids studying Roman civilization. My only fear is that there is so much detail and advanced vocabulary that this will be a hard read for the average middle schooler. But nevertheless, I recommend it for motivated readers, especially 6th graders since they study this era in history.