Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders: Romans by Tony Robinson
|Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders: Romans by Tony Robinson|
|Category: Children's Non-Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A reasonable, but not funny-enough, look at the world of the Roman Empire and its inhabitants.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: April 2012|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
You could be mistaken for thinking Tony Robinson had written books like this before, for he was doing 'Horrid History'-style TV programmes before the official ones were made. This series fits so well into his erudite yet family audience-friendly manner, and this second book takes us in a primary school curriculum-suiting way into the world of Rome. A lot is in these books, from trivia for all ages (I didn't know, or had forgotten, that all those Julius Caesar reliefs and statues are of him in a wig as he was bald), to the delectable gross-out (the posh man's cuisine) to the foregrounding of the obvious difference between them and us (in a word, slavery).
This book has a slight improvement in style over book one - Egypt, in that the more encyclopaedic elements regarding the various Caesars are scattered throughout. This frees up the end of the dominion to be alone at the end, and nothing then is too heavy. There is a case for saying, however, that this splits up all the copious talk of slaves and their lives. They're here as they started young - the same age as the book's target audience, and for the yucky jobs, such as scraping off skin and sweat in the baths and collecting urine to soak togas in.
But still there's room for everything else - the Romulus/Remus myth, the very nature of living in such a metropolis as the world had never seen, the gladiators, the animal sacrifice, the roads... About the only things I can think of that are not there are the obvious exclusions - the bisexual orgies and worst excesses of the Caesars, and all the rude bits on the statues. And there's still room for quite lame captions - speech bubbles from the cartoon characters and those added to Roman mosaics, portraits and sculpture. I know graffiti was found all over Pompeii, but all the same...
All in all, though, the series is still a success - entertaining enough, and all-encompassing, in a teacher-approved manner. Here the flow across the boxouts, interjections and questions as chapter headings is not so complete, so it is a bit more stop-start than before, but for me the sense of humour is still, surprisingly, the nearest thing to a hindrance in these pages.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Fictional Rome for this age-range can be had with The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence and the industry of its sequels.
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