As a child, I read voraciously and ate almost anything put in front of me. But my kids are picky. Not sure why. Is it genes? Or did I make some fundamental parenting error? Will they grow out of it?
Anyway, a children’s librarian pointed us toward a series called The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence. We ended up reading it as a bedtime book, and we’re all the way through book three. It’s good stuff. The main character, Flavia Gemina, solves mysteries in first-century Rome with her friends Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus. Flavia is a polytheistic Roman from a well-off family, Jonathan is a Christian Jew, Nubia is a slave whose family was killed in the slave raid, and Lupus is a beggar boy who has had his tongue cut out.
As you might imagine, this series does not shy away from the harsh realities of Roman life. In the second book, people die terribly in the Mount Vesuvius eruption. In the third book, which we just finished, children (including our heroes) get kidnapped to be sold into slavery. All the same, it’s not too scary for our eight-year-old. How does Lawrence manage that? I do not know.
I had some reservations during the first two books. Flavia’s dad helped her buy Nubia, to save her from an unspecified worse fate. But the third book was pure win. My daughter and I had some conversations about whether or not Nubia really was a slave, since Flavia was nice to her and didn’t order her around, and whether it would be right for Nubia to run away, if given the chance. Without giving too much of the plot away, it’s fair to say that everybody learned a lesson by the end of the book. And Nubia was freed.
Anyway, definitely worth a look!