This evening we read “Escape from Pompeii” by Christina Balit, which tells the story of two young Pompeii-ans, Tranio and his friend Livia, who flee the doomed city when Vesuvius begins her legendary eruption that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD (or CE…whatever your preference). Balit introduces us to these two youngsters for long enough to give us a window into their daily life, before sending them running to the harbor to watch their hometown consumed by ash from the deck of a Greek ship. The illustrations are intricate and colorful, and reminiscent of ancient Greek or Roman art. Despite the fact that our main characters escape, and the fact that they are raised by the kind Greek captain on whose boat they stow away, the mood on the final page of the story is sorrowful…as Tranio and Livia visit the site where Pompeii used to stand and wonder if its story will ever be told. For a more hopeful ending, I recommend that you go on and read the Epilogue together to find out how Pompeii was later discovered by archaeologists, and how much we have learned from the people and things that were so uniquely preserved in Vesuvius’ ash.
In Huck Finn this evening, the Duke and King finally got around to doing what we had been afraid they would ever since arriving on the raft: they sold out Jim as a runaway slave in order to collect a reward that they themselves had manufactured out of thin air with a counterfeit “wanted” poster. The Duke and King use some misdirection to outmaneuver Huck – who must now figure out how to free Jim from Silas Phelps, the farmer who “bought” Jim off of the King for $40. When we finished reading, Huck was on his way to the Phelps farm trusting in “Providence” to give him the words he needs when the time comes. Meanwhile the Duke and King are preparing to reprise one of their favorite scams (the “Royal Nonesuch”) because the King has already spent his ill-gotten gains on alcohol and is now broke again.