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Roman History Book Reviews for Children


Pompeii...buried Alive (Step-into-reading)


The story begins on the morning of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius with the people of Pompeii busy in their daily life and oblivious of the dangers of the ‘sleeping giant’.

As the drama unfolds we learn of the eruption and the panic of the people:
“The cloud hid the sun. It was dark. Tiny hot pebbles began to fall on the people of Pompeii.”
“Some people found pillows to cover their heads. Others hid inside their houses.”

The paintings which illustrate the book include the plaster casts of the bodies of people and a dog; all of whom were asphyxiated by the fumes of the volcano and their posture at the time of death recorded for posterity.

There is no mention of the reporter Pliny the Elder who was in charge of the fleet which attempted to rescue the inhabitants. He died on land from asphyxiation in Pompeii and it was his nephew Pliny the Younger who lived to write the history having declined the invitation to accompany him.

Suitable for children developing independent reading - simple sentences.




The Bebob Ballad of Boudicca (History Song Sheets)

by Suzy Davies


The Bebob Ballad of Boudicca song sheet is produced on card which covers three A4 sheets with musical score and accompanying lyrics. On the reverse side the lyrics are shown alone as a simple song sheet consist of 25 lines. 7 lines of which are a repetition of this stanza:

'Buh-buh-buh buh Boudicca, Buh-buh-buh buh Boudicca'.

There are two verses of uninformative story line. Perhaps it was an attempt to keep things simple for the young children who might be singing it. Or perhaps Suzy Davies didn't know much about Boudicca. That may be harsh but there are not many facts in the story and therefore to get the name of the Emperor of the time wrong really stands out. Two sections of singers chant for either Boudicca of the Iceni or Claudius for the Roman side. Whilst Claudius was the emperor at the time of the invasion he was dead by 54 AD and Boudicca's revolt was in 61AD when the Emperor of the time was Nero.

The TES (Times Educational Supplement) is quoted on the front cover with these words: "Reinforce history by singing about it". However, the lyrics are amateurish and rather than reinforcing history it promotes inaccuracy and confusion. In it's Amazon listing it is called a 'fact filled song book' but it really is not filled with facts.

Within the lyrics one group of singers has to sing "What are the Romans? Rubbish!". In my opinion those words sum up the quality of the historical research and presentation rather well.

This is a shame because the idea of the publication is good. The CD which comes with the publication also does it's job. The bebop music is actually quite good and catchy and I am sure that kids would love performing this piece. The CD has 12 tracks starting with the full performance and a well sung version of the song and then it is broken into sections for the children to learn and practice.

In addition to the information supplied in the publication there are online teaching notes and sheets for the tuned and un tuned percussion parts:


If I had to teach using this resource then I think that I would, in conjunction with the children, try to produce some better lyrics to go with the music.

The reviews in Amazonhistory books image provide an alternative viewpoint.





100 Things You Should Know About Ancient Rome
By Fiona MacDonald


This book cherry picks interesting facts about the Rome and the Romans and for this reason its content is very engaging. The format of the book is to provide headline facts which are supported by a paragraph of text and an illustration. The illustrations are sourced from a wide variety of illustrators but they are all engaging paintings which help to bring the subject matter to life. Each page also includes a humorous cartoon strip by Mark Davis.

Did you know that:

“Some fashionable people admired delicate blonde hair, because it was unusual. Roman women used vinegar and lye (an early form of soap, made from urine and wood-ash) to bleach their own hair.”

“(Chariot) Racing rivalries sometimes led to riots. Races were organised by four separate teams – the Reds, Blues, Greens and Whites. Each team had a keen - and violent - group of fans.”

“Many people still have Roman names. Here are some popular ones: Diana (Moon Goddess), Patricia (noble) and Martin (God of War)




Roman Colosseum (Mystery History of A ..)
By Rhiannon Ash


This book examines the history of the Colosseum which it describes as “a towering symbol of Rome’s power”, which “reminds us of their (the Romans) dark side”. The aim of this book is to solve a Roman mystery. By answering questions you get clues which help to eliminate the suspects. Most of the questions are educational. In answer to one of the questions we learn that “the Colosseum can hold an estimated 50,000 people. At the opening ceremony, over 9,000 animals were killed”. Due to the scale of the events at the Colosseum there was a huge amount of supporting activity throughout the Roman Empire. You will discover how the countryside supplied the water, via aqueducts, to flood the arena whilst holding naval battles. Foreign conquest provided a source of slaves which had to be transported to Rome. This is all before we get to the Gladiators training and thier big day in this iconic arena. So many aspects of Roman life are naturally covered by this topic. Review by Nigel Cross 21/10/07




Ancient Rome (Eyewitness Guide)
by Simon James


Dorling Kindersley the publishers of this book produce extremely good educational books. Simon James is a well known author of Roman books and this book is full of accurate and well researched material. The book is illustrated almost entirely of stunning photographs which present real information rather than an artistic impression of life. This book contains 72 pages so unlike some children's books this is quite a substantial volume with a wide variety of topics. This book is more about Roman Life rather than ‘Ancient Rome' as titled. Each topic covers two pages and the text is relatively short and it is therefore quite suitable for older primary school children who want a more in-depth understanding of the Romans. The photographs, which are delightful, dominate each page and are accompanied by detailed notes. There is a glossary in the back of the book to help with unfamiliar terms and there is also a timeline of the Roman Emperors and information about where to find out more information.

History book review: 27/01/08





Roman Fort (Fly on the Wall)
By Mick Manning


This book is produced in the form of a story which follows the Fort Commanders wife on her journey to see her friend. En route you discover things about life in and around the Roman Fort.

There is a lot of action and information is imparted through 'labelled'illustrations. Hard facts are supplied at the bottom of each page. The book makes the information easy for the child to absorb in an engaging way.

It covers the wider aspects of life in Fort very well: the baths, the toilets and the life of the commanders wife and children. It also provides insight for the younger reader about the position of a fort in a hostile environment. These are all important things which traditionally may have been overlooked in some children's books.

I would have liked a few more pages covering barrack life and military training which is very much underplayed but I guess this is done well in other books.

The illustrations are sketched and painted and they are well suited to younger children.




Read these reviews of our most popular Roman history books for children:

1. Who Were the Romans? (Starting Point History) by Phil Roxbee Cox

2. The Romans Activity Book (British Museum Activity Books) by John Reeve & Patricia Vanaqs

3. Romans (Usborne Beginners) by Katie Daynes

4. Roman Things to Make and Do by Leonie Pratt

5. Roman_Army by Ruth Brocklehurst