Earlier this month, I visited the Roman Baths in the city of Bath: a most interesting site which was crowded with frequently screen-fixated viewers, and would have been better seen at night, according to the experts, if only our time had allowed.
As I mingled around in the gloom, I wondered quite what a modern KS2 child would get out of the experience. What would help them to see or to remember this place?
I have always believed that both a little knowledge and a light touch of imagination are needed to light up such places in the mind, whether before, during and/or after a visit.
One way into such historical imagining is through fiction.
Lynne Benton, a writer friend, who lives close to the Bath, has written just the sort of adventure that would help young readers to “see” the site as it was in Roman times.
Moreover, curriculum-wise, the book slips neatly into the “Romans in Britain” study category.
Lynne’s children’s novel, THE LOST TREASURE OF AQUAE SULLIS, is just the kind of pacey story that will entice a junior reader. Though the historical details are there in the setting, the history never overwhelms the plot or the main characters.
In addition, Lynne’s ex-teacher awareness of language makes the pages highly readable. (She is also an author of several early reader books for KS1 children so knows how to make her words work within a text.)
The two young heroes are Felix, son of a murdered Roman officer, and Catrin, a once enslaved Celt with second sight. Having survived peril and trouble in earlier books, this contrasting pair are now the loved and adopted children of a Roman General and his wife.
Now, in THE LOST TREASURE OF AQUAE SULLIS, Felix and Catrin accompany their mother to the great city. She intends to visit old friends in their villa but also wants to go to the temple. There she will beg for a cure for her baby son - the children's sibling - by making offerings as the Healing Waters shiver with the Great Goddess’s presence.
Of course, life within the busy city is anything but peaceful or simple. Mysteries flourish: a precious vase is stolen from a locked room, terrible accusations are made, trusted slaves and servants disappear and dissemble and even the sacred baths prove perilous – but, by the end, the children have solve the mystery and saved most of those in danger.
THE LOST TREASURE OF AQUAE SULLIS is a nicely dramatic story with brave and “identifiable” heroes, introducing young readers glimpses of Roman life while providing excitement and entertainment on the way.
This novel is the third of Lynne’s “Britannia Mysteries” trilogy; The first THE CENTURION’S SON is set in Caerleon, South Wales, while the second novel DANGER AT HADRIANS WALL. follows the Legion to the north. Both of these should still be available from Coppertree Press.
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