A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Vicky Alvear Shecter's Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii is definitely for older children. There are instances of suicide, infanticide, slavery, and murder. These topics may spark discussions about current topics, including the treatment of women and girls around the world, religion, abortion, suicide, slavery, and homosexuality. There's also an opportunity for discussion about climate change.
What's the story?
Lucia is the daughter of a moderately wealthy gladiator-school owner. Lucia's family carries the stigma of its association with a less-than-desirable profession, and, to gain both money and prestige, she has to contend with an engagement to a horrible but rich old man. She prays to the gods to remove her from the situation, but the gods seem preoccupied with something else. Something is pulsating just below the surface of the town, and everyone is on edge. What Lucia doesn't know is that her escape will come but from an unexpected and forgotten source. Will help arrive in time? And will Lucia find the strength to help herself?
Is it any good?
The author has done a terrific job of re-creating in the ancient Roman town of Pompeii and reimagines the events leading up to and following its destruction. Within the first few pages, readers are immersed in the sights, sounds, and even smells of Pompeii -- and in the life of Lucia. The characters Shecter has created leap off the page, grab readers, and drag them along for the ride.
Parents and older kids will love the action and the romance in this true page-turner as they hold their breath for what's coming next. Everyone knows that the volcano explodes, but Shecter still manages to wrangle out a few surprises. Although she hits upon some deep issues -- including slavery, suicide, infanticide, murder, and sexual assault -- the book is not too sophisticated for most older kids and teens. In fact, it can help kick off discussions of those topics as they relate to events happening around the world today.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way women are portrayed and treated in the novel and how it compares with the treatment of women and girls around the world today. Can you think of any examples in the media that portray women as weaker than men? Can you give examples of a media story wherein women are shown as equal to men? How do these media stories impact the way people think?
Families also can talk about the role of science in the novel. Which warning signs does Lucia notice that could have helped the citizens of Pompeii? Can you think of current weather events or other natural phenomena that may be warning signs of climate change? Why is it important to observe the natural world around you?
Curses and Smoke is a story about Roman citizens and their gods. How are those gods similar to those in other religious stories?
- Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
- Publication date: May 21, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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