Mira's Diary: Home Sweet Rome

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Mira's Diary: Home Sweet Rome Book Poster Image
Time-travel sequel is intense, suspenseful, and exciting.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Narrator and time-traveler Mira visits Rome at the turn of the 17th century. She learns -- and educates readers -- about Renaissance artists (particularly Caravaggio), philosophy, and science. She also encounters injustices toward Jews and free thinkers of the time, and inwardly explores eternal issues of faith, prejudice, and narrow mindedness.

Positive Messages

The message of both of Marissa Moss' Mira's Diary books is that, for good or ill, the past has much to teach us about ourselves and our world. There are also strong messages in Home Sweet Rome about tolerance and religious freedom.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Monsignore Del Monte shows the impact one person can make, as a patron of Caravaggio and a protector of Bruno Giordano's writings.

Violence

In the most violent scene in this book, Mira witnesses a philosopher --condemned for espousing ideas that are considered anti-church -- being burned at the stake. She describes the smell of him burning and the sound of onlookers cheering. Mira is grabbed and handled roughly by police after she hurls a water jug at policemen.

Sex

In a tavern, waitresses flirt suggestively with male patrons.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In the year 1600, Mira is taken to a tavern where adult men drink beer and wine. She says the place smells like stale beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mira's Diary: Home Sweet Rome is the second book in the Mira's Diary series. This time, 14-year-old time-traveler Mira Levin goes to Rome around the year 1600 and visits a Jewish ghetto, where she encounters the prejudice and narrow-mindedness that fueled the Inquisition. She inwardly explores complex philosophical and scientific ideas as a result. Though some of the concepts Mira touches on may be over the heads of middle-grade readers, those kids can certainly follow Mira's suspenseful adventure with interest and understand the essential concepts of fairness and freedom of expression that are at issue. Cruelty to children can be especially upsetting to young readers, so some kids may be disturbed by the inhuman conditions Mira endures when she's thrown in jail (rats, wormy gruel to eat, despair). There's also a scene where a man who was previously jailed for expressing controversial ideas is burned at the stake. In a tavern scene, men drink beer and wine and waitresses flirt suggestively with their male patrons.

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What's the story?

In the second volume in Marissa Moss' Mira's Diary series, 14-year-old Mira Levin -- who shares her mother's ability to time-travel -- receives another note from her mom. Mrs. Levin is living in turn-of-the-17th-century Rome and is trying to prevent events that she says will affect her children's future. Mira must go to Rome, and back in time, to help her mom. Following cryptic clues, Mira finds herself employed by Monsignore Del Monte, a patron to the great artist Caravaggio, who also becomes part of the story. Mira learns that she must preserve the writings of a philosopher named Giordano Bruno, whose life is threatened by the Inquisition. While trying to save Bruno, in a strange city in a dangerous time, Mira must also dodge the Watchers -- time-travel police who don't want her to meddle in the past.

Is it any good?

Marissa Moss' second Mira's Diary novel is as ambitious and suspenseful as the first, and teaches much about great Italian art and architecture as well as the history of scientific thought. Whereas some of the ideas and historical background may be over young readers' heads to varying degrees, the book can be enjoyed on a variety of levels. Some readers may simply be gripped the suspenseful story; others may like digging deep into the problem of why the 16th-century Roman Catholic church considered scientists their enemies. This is an exciting, eye-opening adventure story that will appeal especially to young art lovers, budding scientists, and history buffs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about time-traveling. For Mira, this ability means she gets to meet great artists and other geniuses from the past. If you could time-travel, where/what time would you want to visit, and whom would you hope to meet?

  • How does this Mira's Diary book compare to the frist book in the series, Lost in Paris? Where do you think Mira should visit next?

  • Learn more about the great art and ideas of Renaissance Rome by exploring the books in the bibliography at the back of Mira's Diary: Home Sweet Rome.

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