Review Blog

Apr 30 2008

The town mouse and the Spartan house by Terry Deary

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2007 ISBN 0713682213
(Age 7-10) Just mention Terry Deary, and all kids know that he is the author of some of the best historical books around. Never left long on the shelves, the Horrible Histories are borrowed with gusto. With titles such as The Vile Victorians and The Gorgeous Georgians, the books are immensely popular and give kids a glimpse into the past.

Luckily he has now turned his startling mind to books for the middle primary reader, and they are just as good. The town mouse and Spartan house is one of the series called Greek Tales, set in Athens, Greece in 430 BC. In The town mouse, the hero, Darius must flee. Both of his parents have died, and the city is besieged by Spartan forces, bent on Athen's total destruction. His uncle is a Spartan general and so he tries to enlist his help to get out of Athens, now also under the threat of plague.

The general has no time for this scrawny looking lad, and he is sent to be a helot. But when the general becomes ill, it is Darius, the son of a doctor who comes to his aid, saving his life.

A funny look at the difference between Athens and Sparta, the tale also has a moral, It is better to eat beans and bacon in peace, than cakes and ale in fear, which is proved through the story. Children in middle primary school will love to read about Darius, a strong willed young boy caught up in war. Along the way they will learn a great deal of information about Athens and Sparta, told with economy and humour by this wonderful storyteller.

Each story is complete in itself, and with chapters and funny illustrations, will encourage newly successful readers to keep reading with confidence.
Fran Knight

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