Lost and Found: Pompeii and other Lost Cities by John Malam

Book Review by Aurelia

“Pompeii and other Lost Cities” is part of the Lost and Found series, a wonderful little collection of history books made for children aged 7 years and above. It is a great way to introduce your child to the wonders of history and fire up their imagination of ancient civilisations. This is certainly the kind of book that I would have spent hours poring over as a child.

This quality, glossy edition is carefully divided into six parts, each featuring an ancient city from a different part of the world: Pompeii in Italy; Amarna (known as Akhetaten in ancient times) in Egypt; Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands (off the north coast of Scotland); Machu Picchu in Peru; Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan; and Akrotiri located on Santorini island (formerly known as Thera). In terms of content, the book is a blend of historical events and archaeological discoveries and contains an abundance of photos of historical sites, illustrations depicting everyday life in some of the cities, as well as maps pointing out their exact location.

It opens with a brief introduction attempting to explain possible reasons for the disappearance or abandonment of some of these cities, for instance, natural disasters such as sand storms or volcano eruptions, political shifts, or even devastating epidemics. It also draws a distinction between ghost towns and lost cities, the former being places that were never forgotten but simply ceased to be inhabited. A good example is the old mining towns in the United States that were gradually abandoned as the gold rush wound down.

As previously mentioned, the format consists of six chapters or sections, with four pages reserved for each lost city. The first two pages are dedicated to the past and describe the events that led to the city being abandoned and/or partially destroyed. And the last two pages focus on the present by providing an overview of the site as it is now. Each section also contains little anecdotes and other interesting titbits of information in the form of “fact files”. For instance, I did not know that Amarna was only inhabited for approximately 25 years before being abandoned, nor that most inhabitants of Machu Picchu probably died of smallpox.

John Malam, the author, is a prolific writer of children’s books focusing mostly on history. With a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, and professional experience both as an archaeologist and a book editor, he certainly has the right credentials for this sort of work! His writing style is simple and concise, and his use of language is accessible and appropriate for young children who have only recently learned how to read and write.

As a mother, this is certainly a book I want to keep for my toddler to read in a few years time. It is visually very appealing with lots of photos and illustrations, which I think is essential to engage young children. Furthermore, as I said above, the language is accessible and does not intimidate. In fact, it does quite the opposite as it provides just enough information and leaves you yearning for more – perfect for those little enquiring minds. At £5.99 (approximately $10.00) for the paperback version, it is still affordable and definitely a good investment for your child’s growing hunger for knowledge.

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Union Jack Pompeii and the Lost Cities for the UK