Ever since M. and B. were little, but old enough to listen to chapter books (they were probably 6 and 4), I have read a book aloud at lunch. It is the perfect to time read. I have a captive audience, they are happy to sit and each their lunch and listen, and we can tackle books that might be a stretch at other times. Classics, historical fiction, biographies, etc. For instance, I think M. and B. were about these ages when we read Jules Vernes' Around the World in 80 Days. (That was actually kind of fun, now that I think about it. We followed the characters around the world, charting their course on a map and reading a little about each country they passed through.) Anyway, it has been the perfect time to read.
Since we are learning about ancient Rome this year, we have been reading a couple of historical fiction novels. I had never read them before, despite the fact that this is my third time through this time period with my children and I have seen the books on multiple lists. They are The Ides of April and Beyond the Desert Gate by Mary Ray. Of the two, I think we enjoyed the first one most, but they were both good. They are related, but not so much that they cannot stand alone; there is one common character between the two.
In The Ides of April, a murder is committed and one of the slaves must figure out who the real killer was or all the slaves of the household will be killed as required by Roman law. While the subject sounds a bit intense, it is written with care and the content either went over the littles' heads or my audience could deal with it. This is true even of D., who has a very low tolerance for anything too gruesome. What the book does is an excellent job of portraying what life was like in Rome around 60 A.D. Plus it was an exciting story. The story is fairly complex and sometimes I had to help the grade school bunch sort out what was happening. It was a perfect book for reading out loud, if I were to assign it to be read individually, the writing and story is probably better for a junior high or high school student.
Beyond the Desert Gate is set in Palestine around the fall of Jerusalem, ~70 A.D. The siege of Jerusalem is mentioned, but thankfully the story is not set there. That wouldn't be a book for children. This book tells the story of a 13 year old boy who lives in Philadelphia and whose life is then brought into contact with the occupying Roman troops. It is a darker book than the first, but then, life in Palestine under Roman rule was no picnic, even if you weren't a Christian or a Jew.
We have now started on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. We are also studying sea creatures, so I thought this would be fun. We've only read a couple of chapters, so the jury is still out about the 'fun' part. I'll let you know.
In keeping with today's book theme, if you have a (very) reluctant reader as I do, you know how exciting it is when they hit upon a book which strikes their fancy and makes the effort of reading worth it. My very reluctant reader happened upon a book at a friend's house and was so interested in it that he asked me to get it from the library. He has also actually spent a good chunk of time reading it. It is called Firestorm by Joan Hiatt Harlow. It is historical fiction about the Chicago fire. I'm surprised by the whole thing, since historical fiction is NOT what I would have (or had been, for that matter) chosen for him. I haven't read it myself, but thought I'd share the title for others who have reluctant readers. The author looks as though she has six other titles, which makes me happy in case it is the author's writing and not the subject that appeals.
Happy Valentine's Day! If you want to read more about how we have celebrated, take a look at my new article, Valentine's Day Celebration.
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