Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Timeslip Tuesday-- Danger in Ancient Rome

London Through Time by Angela McAllister, Nick Maland
July 2nd 2015 by Frances Lincoln Children's Bks

This is a more literal interpretation of time travel (Timeslip Tuesday is an occasional feature of Charlotte's Library) than a fiction book. It is a fold out panel of a street in London, showing Maisie and Max at various points in time. The years are noted for different scenes, and Maisie and Max can be found in each one, disguised in period costumes. There are only two lines of information for each year, making this more appropriate for the picture book crowd. There is a front and back, going from Roman times to the present. There is also a page of information that includes various things that can also be sought in the pictures. This is a good overview to London. It would be nice if a map could somehow be included to show the expansion of the city. Something similar on Rome would be a good accompaniment to our 7th grade social studies curriculum.

23604418Messner, Kate. Danger in Ancient Rome (Ranger in Time #2)
30 June 2015, Scholastic
E ARC from Edelweiss

Ranger is watching soccer with Sadie and Luke when he notices his metal first aid box humming. As he was in Danger on the Oregon Trail, Ranger is transported back in time... this time to ancient Rome. In the Colosseum, he runs into Marcus, and eleven-year-old slave who was sold to Villius, the owner of the Ludus Magnus gladiatorial school, to pay the debts of his parents, who perished in a fire. Marcus is accompanying new gladiator Quintus, and the two have wandered into the big animal area. Ranger manages to save them, and thinks that he will be able to go home, but ends up back at the school with them. Quintus is in big trouble for trying to run away, and is set to fight the vicious Cleto in the next games. Marcus knows that Quintus doesn't stand a chance unless he gets some training, and since Villius won't train him, Marcus does. The two bond, and go to visit Quintus' brother, Gaius, at the family bakery. As they arrive, the realize that the building is on fire, but Ranger once again comes to the rescue. It's still not enough to send him home, however, and soon Quintus is sent to the arena. He is dressed as a retiarius, armed with a net and a trident. The brutal Cletus is a secutor, heavily armored with a sword. Will he survive? And how will Ranger get back to Sadie and Luke?

Seeing the world through Ranger's eyes offers a fresh perspective, and is not done in an overly precious way. Instead, Ranger senses danger of which Marcus is only vaguely aware, since Marcus is more concerned with becoming a gladiator himself so that he can eventually earn his freedom. It is interesting that he seems to think that Quintus might not make it, but is strong in his belief that he will! Ranger, who trained to be a rescue dog but was too distracted by squirrels to become certified, is highly motivated to save people when he thinks it is his ticket back to Sadie and Luke!

The plot moves along nicely. with a variety of danger that Marcus and Quintus must confront. The animals under the Colosseum, the wrath of Villius, and the apartment fire, and most of all, Quintus' turn in the arena, are all exciting without being too scary to younger readers.

Ancient Rome is not only part of most middle school social studies curricula, but it is also an era of history that greatly interests young readers. Messner has done a very good job of researching Roman culture, and has added good details of both gladiatorial fighting and daily life. The included bibliography lists a wide range of books for readers to continue their studies.

Danger in Ancient Rome will appeal to readers with many different interests. Children who have read all of the Magic Tree House books and are ready for a slightly more complex book will enjoy this series, as will readers who like books with historical settings or dogs. I can see this book sparking a lot of good summer play in the back yard while readers pretend to be gladiators. While there is a great glossary with different Roman and gladiatorial terms, there isn't the necessary warning-- while pretending to be a gladiator, don't hurt anyone with sticks!

23271194Rosen, Lev. Woundabout.
June 23rd 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley.com

After the death of their fathers in an unfortunate bomb explosion on the family capybara ranch, Connor and Cordelia are sent to live with their aunt Marigold in the odd town of Woundabout. They are allowed in the town only because their aunt is good friends with the mayor- they meet a boy whose parents desperately want to move into town because they think the air will be good for his sister, who has been injured and is in a wheel chair. Or is the air bad for children? All of the children who live in town are sent away. After they meet the mayor, the children decide to investigate a missing "thing" that he has mentioned, although they are discouraged from asking any questions. Their aunt's butler, Gray, does answer some, but they have to find most of the information about the town on their own. There is a dead park, and the river runs sluggishly-- in fact, very little ever changes in town, and people don't want it to. When Connor and Cordelia located the "thing", they set a lot of change in motion, and have to convince the town that it's a good thing.
Strengths: There is some diversity-- Cordelia looks like she might be part African-American, and the children have two fathers. Marigold was a race car driver, which is fun. There's a good message about change.
Weaknesses: This phrase from the acknowledgements did not surprise me: "our editor, Alvina, who took the time to show us what a middle grade book was, even when it was clear we had no idea what we were doing." This book was overly preachy, had akward language that seems born of trying to write down to middle grade, and just was...odd. The pictures did not seem to go along with the text stylistically.
What I really think: I love Little, Brown, but this book was not up to their usual standards.


  1. I haven't read that Messner book. I love everything she writes, so I will have to find it. I am a big ancient Rome fan, so the setting appeals to me!

  2. The first Ranger in Time was hugely popular with my 1st - 3rd book club.