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Augustus Caesar's World Review by Katherine Averill

Genevieve Foster
Beautiful Feet Books
1306 Mill Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Story hour for history study? You bet! Beautiful Feet Books has brought back a wonderful tale in Genevieve Foster's Augustus Caesar's World. Foster began writing her history books to encourage her own children to enjoy what they thought was a boring subject. Boring is not what you get in this information-packed book.

While the story, covering the time of Augustus from 44 BC to 14 AD, is geared toward a middle school level, it could easily be read aloud to elementary students and would be an easy read for high school students. The book has 330 pages and includes an index of characters in the back. The author does a terrific job of intertwining the lives of all the characters to give the reader a complete picture of the life of Augustus.

There are five parts to the book, each covering a different stage of Augustus's life. The story is told through the lives of the many characters, including Cleopatra, Octavia, Cicero, Virgil, and Aristotle. We learn about his uncle, Julius Caesar, naming a young Augustus (then called Octavius) as his heir. Octavius enters politics at the age of 18 and quickly seeks the guidance of Cicero. Through Cicero, we read about Mark Antony, Brutus, and Cassius and the battle for Caesar's power.

The quest for this power is what leads to Octavius becoming known as a great ruler for Rome and earning the name Augustus. Foster weaves the tale to include threads from Greece, Jerusalem, the Mayans, and China. As the story nears its end, we read of the birth of Jesus and how Paul brought this new religion to Rome after Augustus died.

The book would make an excellent supplement to any history study, particularly one that is literature based. There are no review questions, worksheets, or tests given with the text. It is simply a story that gives an accurate account of the time period. Review could easily be incorporated through narration or report writing.

My upper elementary and middle school children looked forward to history when we were reading Augustus Caesar's World. We all enjoyed the storytelling and learned much more than would be expected from the title. Foster includes such a variety of information; this book made for a thorough understanding of the time period. I highly recommend it for your history study, whether it be a unit study, classical approach, or literature-based program.

If I were to ask for anything more, it would be review questions. To ensure understanding, I had my children retell the stories through narration in a history portfolio. Because we were reading together, I was able to answer any questions they had. It was difficult at times for them to keep track of the many characters. Foster helps with this by providing sketches throughout the book of the different people in the story. We found this a useful tool in following the story.

Genevieve Foster's Augustus Caesar's World brings history to life and transports the reader back in time to understand life in Ancient Rome. The book offers information useful to readers of many ages and teaching approaches. Set aside some time on the couch for an enjoyable family study time.

Product review by Katherine Averill, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2009