16/11/2010

I am Spartapuss (by Robin Price)

I knew nothing of Robin Price. Even after searching - fairly quickly, I admit - all I know now is that he likes doing school workshops, where he doesn't simply talk about his books but gets the children doing constructive things.

I probably never would have heard of him, but I saw two of his books listed on the Bookbag site, one of them about 'Cleocatra'. Since one of our cats is Cleopatra, I was immediately drawn to it, and decided also to read 'I am Spartapuss', the first in the series about - wait for it - cats ruling Ancient Rome.

Yes, this book is history, with a twist. Ancient Rome is populated not with humans but with cats. Spartapuss, a fairly superior slave, narrates the story in the style of a diary.

Groanworthy puns abound - he prays to Mewpiter, for instance, and his boss is Clawdius - and although the book took some getting into, it was quite fun. There's a useful cast-list at the front, which I had to refer to rather often as it was remarkably difficult to remember who was whom.

The story is mostly about what happens after Spartapuss is arrested on the grounds of poisoning the emperor's grandson, and features training of prisoner cats for the gladatorial games. All rather unpleasant, though probably realistic.

Intended for children of about 8-12 who read confidently, and who know enough about Ancient Rome to appreciate it.

You can also read my longer review of 'I am Spartapuss' at the Bookbag site.

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