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Secrets of Vesuvius (Time Quest) Paperback – August, 1993

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

An installment in the ``Time Quest'' series alternates scientific assessment and valid speculation about the recently discovered skeletons at Herculaneum with a fictional reconstruction of Vesuvius's eruption. Bisel tells how she came to examine the skeletons in 1982, then introduces readers to a slave, ``Petronia,'' hours before the volcanic explosion. Bisel next reveals her conclusions, drawn from jewelry found with the skeletons and their bone structure, mineral content, etc. Readers are left to determine to what extent Petronia's story is fact- based, and how much is inference and/or interpretation. Shown in full-color photos complemented by artists' renderings of ancient times, these discoveries are fascinating. But the book's greatest strength is Bisel's manifest compassion for the objects of her study--even during the most reductive evaluations. Those who clearly comprehend the factual/fictional components of this historical alloy will find it utterly involving. Glossary; chronology; further reading. (Nonfiction. 8- 12) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Series: Time Quest
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Trade (August 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590438514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590438513
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 8.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,270,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Anne Sullivan on February 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
In researching my historical novel THE FOREVER GIRL, I found Dr. Bisel's book on the skeletons unearthed at Herculaneum an immensely valuable reference. Think about it: These poor people are buried in a volcanic eruption that happens in a single day. They are then discovered after the passage of 19 centuries. The story Dr. Bisel relates is not just about a time period, or an era, it is about one summer day in the life of people living in the Roman Empire. The slave girl Dr. Bisel calls Petronia is found cradling the body of a small baby, but there is more to it than that. The baby is well cared for, well fed, with a gold bulla around his neck. He is one of the elite. Petronia, on the other hand, has been cruelly overworked throughout her short life. She is a slave and nothing more. The whole history of human oppression is contained in this pair of ancient skeletons. What Dr. Bisel describes in her book almost brings tears to the eyes. It is very profound, simple, and moving. I consider it a perfect book for middle school students to read and discuss, and recommend it highly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By on March 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
One horrid day, a volcano spewed its poisonous gases and suffocating ash on terrified Romans. We've heard the stories before, but Dr. Bisel uses a clever blend of fiction and non-fiction to make us feel the agony of Vesuvius' victims.
The book opens with Dr. Bisel introducing herself as "The bone lady", a physical anthropologist who is offered the rare chance to study Roman skeletons. The Romans usually cremated their dead.
In the next section of the book, Dr. Bisel presents the fictional story of a young slave girl, Petronia. She is struggling to survive a cruel mistress and the volcanic fire beneath their homes. As Petronia's story enfolds, we meet the individuals who are later revealed as the skeletons discovered in sealed boat tunnels.
The fictional narrative, historical information, and scientific revelations are interspersed throughout the text. The pace is effective, quick, yet absorbing.
Because of beautifully written descriptions, strong images, and well-crafted characters, we quickly care about individuals in their last moments before and during the eruption. At the same time, we learn about the artifacts and daily life of Ancient Rome as well as the effects of the eruption on the sealed city.
I use this in my classroom with 6th graders. My primary lesson is "Good non-fiction uses the same writing techniques as good fiction." I hope they will never accept non-fiction as routinely boring after they have finished this book.
Dr. Bisel deserves a "Golden Pen Award" for this excellent work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aimee Scorziello on January 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most enjoyable, well-written, and informative children's books on archaeology--ever. I have given it to colleagues, who work in the ancient city of Pompeii (near to Herculaneum), not so much to read to their children, but to enjoy themselves (just as I do!). I would love to see more of this type of literature, and I encourage anyone who wants to explore antiquity in a fun, engaging way to read this book.
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