The Secrets of Vesuvius by Caroline Lawrence.
Roaring Brook Press/The Millbrook Press: Brookfield, CT, 2001.
Originally by Orion Children's Books: London, 2001.
2nd book of The Roman Mysteries

The Secrets of Vesuvius is a short mystery with much depth. The mystery of the lost boy is unusual enough. There is a riddle that Pliny (a Roman poet and military general) entreats the children to solve - a riddle that will lead them to the solution of the missing boy. Add to that the underlying questions of when Vesuvius might erupt, how it will affect them all, and what their reactions will be.

The references to daily life in Ancient Rome give the story flare. Once you adjust to the oddness of it, the Roman terms blend nicely, though it may require more adjusting if you know nothing of Ancient Rome. For more enjoyment you may first want to read something like the Eyewitness Ancient Rome, or maybe something else that focuses more on Pompeii and Herculaneum.

I think the italicizing of Roman words detracts from the story. After all, the reader already knows what words are unfamiliar, and Latin words are different enough to recognize as such. Emphasizing them in the story disturbs the flow, especially at the beginning of the story. There is a glossary of those words. I recommend reading through them beforehand.

The story is fast-paced, because it is a blend of not only mystery but also survival and history.

related-adventure, riddles, lost children, eruption of Mount Vesuvius, volcanoes, Pliny the Elder, mysteries, Pompeii, Herculaneum, high interest
RL=6th and up

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