My kids are obsessed with ancient Rome, and I’d love to find a few fun readalouds set in classical Roman times. Any suggestions?
Happily, the Roman Empire has been just as fascinating for authors as it has been for your children, and your big challenge will be choosing which of these books set in ancient Rome to start with.
Detectives in Togas
Take seven Roman schoolboys, add a slur scrawled on the Temple of Minerva, a burgled tutor, and a mysterious astrologer, and you’ve got a mystery that’s full of twists and turns and Roman history. (The sequel, Mystery of the Roman Ransom, features the same cast of mystery-solving characters.)
The author of The Indian in the Cupboard tackles the class structures of the Roman Empire in this story of two tiger cubs: one given to the emperor’s daughter, where he lives a pampered, luxurious life; the other sent to live in a cold, dark cage as one of the kill-or-be-killed stars at the Caesar’s Colosseum.
The Thieves of Ostia
In the second mystery on our list, sea captain’s daughter Flavia Gemina and her friends set out to discover why the dogs on her street in the Roman city of Ostia are dying. The series (now up to 17 books) is a favorite of historian Mary Beard’s.
The Eagle of the Ninth
Historical fiction writer extraordinaire Rosemary Sutcliffe heads to Roman Britain with the story of a boy named Marcus determined to discover the truth of what happened to his soldier father and the rest of the Ninth legion (and their Eagle standard), who set off north of Hadrian’s wall and never returned.
Escape from Pompeii
If you’re looking for a picture book, this deliberately illustrated story of everyday life in a Roman city (and a harrowing escape from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius) set in C.E. 79 is an excellent choice.
A Roman Death
Older students will get caught up in the tour de force mystery starring Cicero the lawyer as he defends a Roman matriarch accused of murdering her future son-in-law. The story, based on a historical incident briefly mentioned in Cicero’s writings, features a fictional-but-totally-believable speech by the great orator.
This book list is reprinted from the summer 2016 issue of HSL.