Trimester 3 Book Reviews - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

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Trimester 3 Book Reviews


No fooling, we've got book reviews for you today! The books chosen for this third trimester all center around Ancient Rome. With this time period it can be tricky to find appropriate reading material for kids, considering the brutality of the time, but once again Emily Ferrarini has found a few gems.  We hope the following suggestions will inspire those independent readers, or offer some choices for family read-alouds, if you are so inclined:


The Roman Mysteries, by Caroline Lawrence, are a perfect supplement to our study of ancient Roman culture. This series of seventeen historical novels are well-researched, entertaining, and appropriate for primary through middle school students. In The Thieves of Ostia, we are first introduced to the brilliant young Flavia Gemina, girl detective, who joins with an eclectic bunch of pals to figure out who has slaughtered the neighbor’s guard dog. While this series is in many ways typical of mysteries written for ten year-olds, it also weaves in loads of facts about the customs, religions, class struggles, and politics of ancient Rome. 


The Roman Conspiracy, written by Classics professor Jack Mitchell, is a strong adventure story with lots of action, a likable hero, a feisty and intelligent girl, all set against the backdrop of a tumultuous first century Rome. Aulus, our young protagonist, is thrust into the action by the death of his uncle, and is forced to travel into Rome to seek assistance in unraveling a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Students will appreciate the somewhat surprise appearance of Julius Caesar in a minor role. It is small touches like this that promote The Roman Conspiracy from the type of historical fiction which aims to educate children who know nothing of the time period. It feels more like a wink to the young history buff who is reading this book to supplement what they are already in the process of learning. This was such a fun book, and I highly recommend following it up with Jack Mitchell’s The Ancient Ocean Blues. The sequel is arguably even more exciting. It does, after all, involve pirates!


A discussion of historical fiction would be dreadfully amiss without mention of Rosemary Sutcliff’s epic novel, The Eagle of the Ninth. (Sutcliff’s name should be familiar to intermediate students and above, who enjoyed Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus.) Marcus Flavius Aquila is a Roman centurion, and the hero of this story. Stationed in Roman-occupied Britain, Marcus dons a clever disguise and travels north into enemy territory, to steal back the lost eagle standard which carries deep emotional and historical significance to his family. This is a hero impossible not to root for, no matter your opinion on Roman imperialism in general. His thoughtful, brave, and honest nature shines through the action-packed scenes. I never thought a book about Roman centurions, dealing with slavery, the brutal Saturnalia games, and murderous barbarian tribes could be so warm, lovely, and emotionally engaging. If you are only able to make time for one supplemental book this trimester, make it this one. It is probably best suited to students in about fourth grade and older. Although as Rosemary Sutcliff stated in an interview:  “I don't write for adults, I don't write for children. I don't write for the outside world at all. Basically, I write for some small, inquiring thing in myself.” It is that passion which elevates this book above most other works of historical fiction.  

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