Once again Anna Ciddor has crafted an historical narrative that will both entertain her readers with humour, drama, terrific characters and exciting storylines, and inform them with fascinating, and no doubt, previously unknown facts about life in Ancient Rome. Perry, leaves his family holiday in modern-day France behind , when he accidentally travels back 1700 years to a Gaul occupied by the Romans, . While that in itself would be quite shocking and unsettling, it is even more disturbing for the boy to discover he is a merely a lowly slave, in the household of a quite wealthy family.
Whisked from crumbling ruins in the 21st century, where his family are enjoying a festival celebrating the Roman history of the locale, Perry finds himself in the original Villa Rubia, and – due to his mum’s choice of festival costume for him – mistaken for the new slave boy, expected to carry out the most menial of tasks, sleep in what is basically just a hut and eat the most unappetising of foods, including mice!
Apart from his complete ignorance in not only the ways of ancient Roman households but obviously also the expectations of a slave boy, Perry struggles in his forced adaptation to his new circumstances as he attempts to find a way to return to the present. But his longing to be back with his family is tempered by his growing attachment to his new friends, particularly Camilla Valentia, daughter of the household – about whom, Perry has foreknowledge of her fate, having seen her tomb during his present-day holiday.
Your readers will love this for the adventure and the friendship theme but also the fascinating tidbits about life in ancient Rome – be it wine-making, daily meals, dress, the vernacular expressions, school or other customs. They will also feel deeply Perry’s frustration as he tries every conceivable option to get back to his real life and family.
I have already talked this one up with my ChocLit group – coincidentally our Year 7s are just finishing off their first History unit of inquiry on ancient civilisations so they were rather excited about it. Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 5 upwards.
It would appear that Anna Ciddor and I must be of the same vintage as this fictionalised account of a year of her childhood and the many references to commonplace 60s objects and events resonate so readily. While my own experience was growing up in suburban Sydney it would seem that suburban Melbourne was not so far removed after all.
Young Anna describes a year in her everyday life as the oldest of three girls in a Jewish family, all of whom relocated following the war. After reading a particular book Anna becomes infatuated with the idea of owning her own antique doll and her loving parents go above and beyond to make that dream come true. As the year passes with almost weekly visits to the local antiques auction house, Anna relates the family celebrations, the playtimes, school and the house which clearly is bursting with love.
It is a delightful story which I consumed in one sitting and as well as allowing readers a glimpse into a childhood spent in a family of a different culture, also invites a closer knowledge of daily life in a long ago decade when owning a TV was still fairly uncommon, children were not just satisfied but excited by far less in the way of outings and material possessions and family life was valued.
Highly recommended to readers from around eight years upwards.
To take one’s own family history and turn it into a delightful, amusing and engaging story takes a real talent.
Anna Ciddor has done so with this wonderful tale of family warmth, traditions and insight. Inspired by her grandmother’s stories Anna has painted a beautiful picture of a Jewish family’s life in Poland before the horror of World War 2.
The Rabinovitches (the family name struck such a chord with me as it was also my great-grandfather’s name!) are a lively and close family who occupy two houses as there are quite a few of them. Yakov the mischief maker, Nomi, Miriam and serious Shlomo and more lead the reader into a fascinating glimpse of life in the 1920s in Lublin, Poland.
The details of daily life, celebrations and rituals, the excitement of older sister Adina’s wedding and adventures in the streets of their town bring this charming family to life before our eyes offering us a superb chance to develop more cultural understandings.
This is a book which holds up the ordinary life of a family and shows us the joy and love that abounds between all its members while at the same time commemorating the author’s lost family.
A marvellous addition to your collection especially suited to readers from around 12 up, I highly recommend it to you. Teaching notes are available here.