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Vacation Under the Volcano (Magic Tree House #13): 01/14/10
The Magic Tree House books have become a bonding point for my son and me. He loves reading them to me or listening to me read them to him. The adventures that Jack and Annie have typically center on a piece of history or science that Sean will be learning about soon. There are always points in the book where we can stop and discuss the facts behind the story.
Back in college I took a "shake and bake" class (earthquakes and volcanoes) for one of my required science electives. Therefore Vacation Under the Volcano got my attention. It's set in Pompeii on the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
The book is the first in a four part series where the newly appointed "Master Librarians" have to find four lost stories to add to Morgan's library. The book is of course a scroll and although Jack and Annie can talk with the people they meet, the title Morgan gives them is written in Latin. Here the book introduces more talking points: what are scrolls, the ways the Pompeii scrolls are now being scanned, the Latin language and Greco-Roman mythology.
What really struck me though about this book is that it was the first one where I truly felt Jack and Annie were in danger. There's a point where they get stuck in a river of fallen ash that scared Sean and me.
For adults interested in reading another novel set at the end of Pompeii, I recommend Pompeii by Robert Harris.