Friday, April 12, 2013

Mira's Diary, Home Sweet Rome, by Marissa Moss- Review and Q and A!

From Goodreads:
As if traveling to a new country in search of her missing mother weren't difficult enough, Mira has to do it dressed as a boy. In a different century.

A new postcard from her time-traveling mother points Mira to the 16th century Rome. But before she can rescue her mom, she must follow the clues left around the city to find Giordano Bruno, a famous thinker and mathematician, who discovered something so shocking that important Italian officials don't want it revealed. All the while avoiding the Watchers--time-traveling police who want Mira back in her own time.

Immediately after returning from her Parisian time travel, Mira is swept again into a new adventure, this time in Rome, and while there are mentions of anti-semitisim, this predicament has more to do with science and Christianity.  

I think I like the story better in Home Sweet Rome,  there's less uncomfortable explanations on where Mira's been during the time lapses in the past, and less sleuthing, with more focus on the story of the time travel itself.   There are a few tiny reveals on the greater workings of the time travel and the Watchers who police it, though I look forward to the point when Moss starts to twine that portion of the story into the historical aspects more seamlessly.

Once again Moss tackles complex historical events and does a fabulous job of making them interesting and accessible.  Mixing religion, art, science and the Inquisition, you would think a reader would quickly get lost or bogged down, yet her use of personalities and intriguing nuances of the history to keep it more first person is what really works.

A strong second entry in the series, Home Sweet Rome will appeal to the young historian on your reading list, and could very well convert those who aren't already bitten by the history bug.

Marissa took a few minutes to answer some of my questions about writing history for young readers, this is what she had to say:

- You tackle some complex and somewhat unknown historical events and people (in both the Mira's Diary stories), mixed in with very well-known historical figures.  Did you find it hard to make those areas of history engaging and relatable to a younger audience?  Did it change your normal storytelling style?

That's exactly the challenge of these books -- making these complex histories accessible and interesting.  It's tricky to do, but I'm passionate about history and hope to make it as vivid and fascinating for younger readers as it is for me.  Because I'm dealing with the language and fashions of earlier times, I worry about sounding stilted or turning off readers, so I try for dialogue that's accurate for the times while still being engaging.  It's a bit of a tightrope walk really!

-As a huge historical buff myself I am curious if writing the Mira Diary series has led you to discover any historical middle grade books that you would recommend to readers, or if you had previous favorites that you would like to share.

I love Karen Cushman's books.  She's one of my models for historical fiction. And one of my favorite middle-grade books is The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, also brilliant historical fiction, though it takes place not that long ago.
Mira's Diary: Home Sweet Rome
Published by Sourcebooks, April 2nd 2013
My copy kindly provided by the publisher


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