cover image Pompeii: Lost and Found

Pompeii: Lost and Found

Mary Pope Osborne, , illus. by Bonnie Christensen. . Knopf, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-82889-8

The author who has inspired many young history buffs with her Magic Tree House series again takes readers back in time in this handsomely illustrated nonfiction picture book about Pompeii. After a brief introduction to the bustling town and the Mt. Vesuvius eruption that buried it in AD 79, the narrative fast forwards about 1,500 years to when the first ruins were unearthed. Osborne's thorough text and Christensen's (The Daring Nellie Bly ) original frescoes vividly depict what archeology revealed about life in the Roman town. The discoveries span a range of subjects, from food ("Archaeologists have uncovered many bakeries... with petrified loaves of bread still in their ovens!") to gladiator helmets ("A wounded fighter lived or died according to the will of the crowd"). A pleasing design presents spreads organized into three sections: a large two-thirds panel offers a typical everyday scene (e.g., one shows the busy forum where townspeople shopped) and the last third, broken into two inset images, houses the text plus a related archeological find (e.g., coins and scales in the marketplace illustration). Christensen traveled to Italy to learn how to make her richly hued frescoes (an end note explains the process), and their aged, faded quality adds an authentic feel. A few frescoes and facts are somewhat graphic (e.g., "The plaster shapes reveal family members huddled together, their faces twisted with pain and fear"). Because of its stark revelations, the volume is aimed at older readers, but adults will find also this a book worth uncovering. Ages 6-10. (Jan.)