Pompeii: Lost and Found


The famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius that snuffed out life in Pompeii and buried the town has long been a fascinating moment in history for children. This book presents that dramatic story with Mary Pope Osborne’s brief text and with stunning frescoes created by Bonnie Christensen, using the same colors, style, and technique as the ancient frescoes unearthed at Pompeii. In addition to the destruction of Pompeii and the rediscovery of the ruins nearly 1,700 years later, the book shows what daily life was like in ...

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The famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius that snuffed out life in Pompeii and buried the town has long been a fascinating moment in history for children. This book presents that dramatic story with Mary Pope Osborne’s brief text and with stunning frescoes created by Bonnie Christensen, using the same colors, style, and technique as the ancient frescoes unearthed at Pompeii. In addition to the destruction of Pompeii and the rediscovery of the ruins nearly 1,700 years later, the book shows what daily life was like in this prosperous Roman town in the year 79 A.D.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In both text and illustration, this title takes us back to the city that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Osborne describes what archeologists have discovered in the many years of excavation after the discovery of the buried town and its identification in 1763. From their work we can reconstruct the lives of the people of Pompeii, from the wealthy to the slaves. We can see the kinds of concerts and plays they attended, the public baths and toilets they used, the shopping available, the religious rites, the lives of children, all brought to an end with the terrible explosion. Christensen creates fresco-like illustrations of the ancient town and its inhabitants in a style which is based on the pictures found by the archeologists. She uses muted earth tones probably to suggest the effects of the years of burial in volcanic ash. But there is also a quality of a living community clearly in the double-page scenes and vignettes. To add interest, she pictures six objects found in the ruins early in the book and asks readers to guess how they were used. Answers are at the end, along with notes on making frescoes. 2006, Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House Children's Books, Ages 6 to 10.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-After brief accounts of the events of 79 A.D. and the first archaeological investigations of the city that lay beneath the fields surrounding Mt. Vesuvius, Osborne's straightforward text focuses on the life at Pompeii at the time of the volcano's eruption. Discussions of daily activities include mention of the many types of buildings unearthed, such as private homes, bakeries, baths, and markets, as well as the activities enjoyed by the free citizens of Pompeii-concerts, plays, and gladiator fights. A large illustration, flanked on the right by two boxes containing text and a smaller picture, occupies most of each spread. Christensen's distinctive, haunting frescoes are reminiscent of the art found throughout the site. Some illustrations are copies of original artwork, while others offer glimpses into what the city may have looked like prior to the volcano's eruption, detail objects found on location, and offer readers information on dress, decoration, and architecture. The illustrations are framed with decorative patterns typical of the period and the colors used reflect those found at Pompeii, including the distinctive, earthen red of some of its most familiar frescoes. While Osborne's text does not go into great detail, it will serve as an enticing introduction to this legendary city "frozen in time." Students ready for more information will be fascinated by James M. Deem's Bodies from the Ash (Houghton, 2005), illustrated with outstanding color photos.-Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Frescoes illustrate this lovely reconstruction of life-and death-in the ancient city of Pompeii. The straightforward narrative opens with the city's destruction by the eruption of Vesuvius and then fast forwards to its discovery by archaeologists and the painstaking reconstruction they have made of the lives of its inhabitants. Osborne takes care to ground surmise in the physical evidence, adducing such kid-pleasing detail as graffiti honoring gladiators and the discovery of petrified loaves of bread in bakers' ovens. Christensen's frescoes-what better medium could she have chosen?-depict Pompeii in both life and death, her design allowing most spreads to juxtapose recreations of Pompeian activities against a picture of a piece of substantiating evidence-a Roman lady in her garden appears with representations of ancient tools, and so on. Captions engage readers in a game to identify the purposes behind such objects, with the answers found at the back. It is of necessity an introductory treatment, but what a lovely introduction it is, and it will whet readers' appetites for more in-depth examinations such as James Deem's Bodies from the Ash (October 2005). (note on frescoes) (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375828898
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 247,944
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.53 (w) x 12.30 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne has channeled a lifelong love of exploration and travel into one of the most popular children’s book series of the past two decades. With her fantastic Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne keeps the good times rolling for kids all over the world.


Ever since 1992, Mary Pope Osborne has been thrilling kids everywhere with her delightfully exciting Magic Tree House series. The globetrotting escapades of time travelers Jack and Annie are brimming with adventure and magic (not to mention some subtly placed lessons on history and geography). With a life like Osborne's, it's only natural that she would be capable of bringing such wondrous stories to life.

Osborne was brought up in a military family, and her parents' work led to a lifestyle marked by constant change. "By the time I was 15," she says on randomhouse.com, "I had lived in Oklahoma, Austria, Florida, and four different army posts in Virginia and North Carolina." While many kids would probably feel disoriented by such constant change, Osborne wouldn't have had it any other way. "Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was. When my dad finally retired to a small town in North Carolina, I nearly went crazy with boredom. I craved the adventure and changing scenery of our military life."

And adventure is exactly what Osborne got! After college, she embarked on a series of daring treks across the globe that would surely give Jack and Annie a run for their money. "For a while I camped in a cave on the island of Crete," she said. "Then I joined up with a small band of European young people heading to 'The East.' We traveled through 11 Asian countries and nearly lost our lives, first in an earthquake in northern Afghanistan and then in a riot in Kabul."

Following an illness she contracted in Katmandu, Osborne returned home to the U.S. trying her hand at a vast variety of jobs: window dresser, medical assistant, Russian travel consultant, waitress, bartender, and an assistant editor at a children's magazine. Although Osborne had unconsciously moved closer toward her ultimate career, she says that her first attempts at writing seemed to come without warning. "One day, out of the blue, I began writing a story about an 11-year-old girl in the South," she recalls. "The girl was a lot like me, and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my childhood...it became a young adult novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. Finally, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up."

She sure did! Since then, Osborne has penned a slew of stories, including picture books, chapter books, middle-grade biographies, and young adult novels; but she is indisputably best known for her wonderful Magic Tree House books, a happy hodge-podge of history and mystery with a time travel theme kids find irresistible. No doubt inspired by Osborne's own highly adventurous life, these exiting expeditions have attracted droves of children and pleased educators by combining compulsively readable storytelling with useful facts about geography and history.

As was written of the series in Children's Literature, "Mary Pope Osborne provides nicely paced excitement for young readers, and there's just enough information mixed in so that children will take away some historical fact along with a sense of accomplishment at having completed a chapter book." As much as Osborne has certainly pleased her readers (not to mention their parents and teachers), perhaps no one is quite as pleased as she. "I'm one of those very lucky people who absolutely loves what they do for a living," she explained. "There is no career better suited to my eccentricities, strengths, and passions than that of a children's book author."

Good To Know

A few fascinating outtakes from our interview with Osborne:

"One of the most defining experiences of my life was traveling overland in an old van through the Middle East and Asia in the early 1970's. One day, when a small group of us were camped in a remote part of northern Afghanistan, we saw a woman riding horseback over the sloping plain. Her long brown hair floated on the wind and she wore a bright gypsy-style dress. When she got closer, I realized she was one of my roommates from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill! Though I didn't even know she'd left the U.S.—and she didn't know I was in Afghanistan, we weren't that surprised to come upon each other. That says a lot about the times we were living in then."

"After 26 years of living in New York City, my husband Will and I now spend most of our time in Northwestern Connecticut, living in a house that overlooks a lake. We kayak and hike with our two Norfolk terriers, Joey and Mr. Bezo. Will's learning Italian, and I've been working with a tutor for two years trying to understand Dante's Divine Comedy. One of my biggest hobbies is reading philosophy and theology. We spend lots of time, of course, on our work. After writing three shows for the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina, Will's writing a musical based on the Magic Tree House series. I'm writing book # 38 in the series. I also spend a lot of time with my sister Natalie Pope Boyce who works on the Magic Tree House Research Guides. Natalie and our nephews and some of our best friends live nearby in the Berkshires Hills of Massachusetts, so we're up there a lot, too. My only complaint is there is not enough time to do all I want to do. For instance, I'd love to take drawing classes and I'd love to paint the lake we're living on. And I'd love to bird watch and become a better cook and learn about classical music. Maybe sometime in the future...."

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    1. Hometown:
      Goshen, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 20, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Sill, Oklahoma
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of North Carolina
    2. Website:

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2008

    A look into the past

    Pompeii: Lost and Found is a visually stunning book. The illustrations are patterned after the frescoes found on the walls of the villas of Pompeii during its discovery. Many of the books that have been written about Pompeii start with the first rumblings of the volcano and continue with the progression of events leading up to the time that Vesuvius finally erupted and the aftermath. Ms. Osborne chooses to start her book with final stage of the eruption of Vesuvius that resulted in the city being completely buried. The author instead focuses on the discovery of the city that was buried for almost two centuries. To tell the story of the doomed city Ms. Osborne brings the daily routines of the citizens of Pompeii back to life and shows many of the activities the people who lived almost 2,000 years ago enjoyed, we also enjoy today. This is a very good book to introduce ancient history and the study of archeology to younger children. I would definitely recommend it to budding historians.

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