Escape from Pompeii


The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 meant death for most of the Roman citizens living in Pompeii. But some people must have survived, and Christina Balit has used this as the starting-point for her story. It tells of Tranio, an actor's son, and his friend Livia, the baker's daughter, who witness the destruction of their beloved city.

When Mount Vesuvius erupts in 79 A.D., Tranio and his ...

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The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 meant death for most of the Roman citizens living in Pompeii. But some people must have survived, and Christina Balit has used this as the starting-point for her story. It tells of Tranio, an actor's son, and his friend Livia, the baker's daughter, who witness the destruction of their beloved city.

When Mount Vesuvius erupts in 79 A.D., Tranio and his friend Livia flee from their homes in Pompeii, Italy, and run to the harbor.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"On the hillside overlooking the sparkling bay of Naples, the Roman city of Pompeii glimmered in the sunlight. From his window, young Tranio listened to the noise humming from bars, taverns, and shops around him . . . Beyond the massive city walls he could see Pompeii's greatest protector looming in the distance. They called it Vesuvius, the Gentle Mountain."
— from the book
Publishers Weekly
Featuring a rich assemblage of patterns and textures and a pleasing palette of earth tones and variegated blues, Balit's (Atlantis: The Legend of a Lost City) three-quarter spread illustrations dominate this vivid story about the destruction of Pompeii. As the tale opens, a youth named Tranio gazes from his window at Vesuvius, ironically described as Pompeii's "greatest protector... the Gentle Mountain." Through Tranio's eyes, Balit introduces the city's bustling harbor, where merchants and fisherman unload their ships; the forum, where politicians deliver speeches and poets perform; and a theater, where Tranio's father and other masked actors rehearse a pantomime. At this last site, Tranio feels tremors and rushes out into the chaotic street, and sees the air fill with ash. He and his friend Livia climb aboard a Greek cargo ship, where, "in one terrible endless moment, they heard mighty Mount Vesuvius roar. Its top exploded in a scream, and flames ripped upward to the sky." From a safe distance, the two watch molten liquid flow down the mountain into the city and destroy "everything and everyone they had ever loved." A conclusion presents Tranio and Livia many years later as they stand on the once-again fertile mountainside, portrayed in cross-section to show the city, and the people, buried beneath. A dramatic, visually exciting look at a cataclysmic event. Ages 6-9. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The shock and horror of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. is seen through the eyes of young Tranio, son of an actor. Life in Pompeii continues despite previous earth tremors. But one day when the earth shakes, the dust thickens and the sky darkens, he and his friend Livia run to the harbor where they fall asleep on a small boat. When they awake out on the water, they see through the choking smoke the explosion of the volcano. Years later they return to mourn the buried city, wondering whether it will ever be found. Balit exploits the warm colors of southern Italy, adding stylizations based on our knowledge of the period architecture and clothing, to create scenes first charmingly decorative and then more dramatically horrible. The scenes at the theater presage the tragedy, while the brilliantly violent eruption with belching crimson flames and roiling poisonous clouds are especially effective in evoking emotions. The final scene depicts the bodies buried in the ruins seen in an archeological cross-section under the bucolic landscape as it is in excavations. Details on the history are added in a note. 2003, Henry Holt and Company, Ages 6 to 9.
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-There really is no way to sugarcoat the loss and destruction that the eruption of Mount Vesuvius wrought in A.D. 79, and those children who thrive on disasters will get a taste of the effects of the inferno in this fictionalized account. The narrative follows the comings and goings of a boy and girl against the hustle and bustle of the Roman port. In stylized scenes rendered in blues and terra-cotta, Tranio notes the activity on the docks, at the forum, and during his father's play rehearsal until the first tremors are felt. As columns split and actors freeze in place, the boy takes off to find his friend. At first they laugh at the frenzy, but as breathing becomes more difficult, the children flee to a boat. The explosion is presented in a dramatic spread with a fiery-red center and layers of billowing clouds as viewed from the sea. The final scene depicts the two (now aged) survivors, returned from Greece to lay flowers on their buried city as they wonder if future generations will remember it. A cross section of the underground reveals the bodies and buildings; an afterword provides a bit of history. Shelley Tanaka's The Buried City of Pompeii (Hyperion, 1997) offers a longer story as well as sidebars with facts and photographs. Both books provide an introduction to this tragic but fascinating city.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sketchily told, if more elaborately illustrated, tale of Pompeii's destruction as witnessed by two young natives. When the city's formerly bright, bustling streets begin to fill with ash and choking gasses, Tranio and Livia run for the harbor, to stow away aboard a departing merchant vessel. Later, they watch from the deck as Vesuvius, "Gentle Mountain," blows its top, sending "streams of molten liquid" over "a nearby town," before burying Pompeii. In contrast to the rather sparsely detailed text, Balit draws every Pompeiian cobblestone and street sign with fussy precision, meanwhile capturing a sense of period by placing robed human figures topped with tight ringlets in stylized poses. She closes with a large-scale map and a small-type description of Pompeii's modern excavation. A few morsels of fact, a few of story: likely only to whet readers' appetites for fuller accounts, such as Shelley Tanaka's Buried City of Pompeii (1997). (Historical fiction/picture book. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781845070595
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
  • Publication date: 2/26/2013
  • Edition description: New
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 206,619
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.60 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Christina Balit was born in Manchester but grew up in the Middle East. She studied at Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art, and also attended Morley Theatre School and Questors Theatre School. She has exhibited widely and is also a playwright. Her books have won several nominations, commendations and a shortlist place for the Kate Greenway Medal. Kingdom of the Sun (written by Jaqueline Mitton), won the 2002 English Association Award for non-fiction.
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