Nonfiction Monday: Pompeii


What is it about the story of Pompeii that is so compelling?  I think it's not so much the volcanic eruption--although that's certainly compelling--as the record of everyday life in a Roman town that Vesuvius inadvertently created almost 2000 years ago.  Pompeii Lost and Found by Mary Pope Osborne, with frescoes by Bonnie Christensen (Knopf, 2006), is primarily about the record, and is the perfect introduction to the story of Pompeii for young readers.

About the illustrations in Pompeii Lost and Found:  According to the flap copy, Christensen "brings to works of nonfiction a style of art that is especially suited to the period in which each book is set."  For this book, she painted actual frescoes inspired in color and style by ones found in Pompeii (a note in the back of the book describes the technique).  One of the first spreads features small frescoes of six objects found in the ruins and asks readers to guess how they were used (answers in the back; my kids really liked this).  Many of the later spreads include a smaller fresco of a found object that relates to the larger fresco of a scene from everyday life:  a scene in the bustling outdoor marketplace (forum) is accompanied by scales and gold coins; one of a dinner party is accompanied by a loaf of bread and a glass pitcher.  I like the way this design encourages kids to imagine being archaeologists and reminds them throughout of the archeological evidence that allows us to imagine life in Pompeii, 79 AD.