Rome Reframed is Amy Bearce’s second middle grade time travel story–the first, Paris on Repeat, was lots of fun, so I was happy to be taken on a visit to Rome!
There we meet Lucas, an 8th grader from Austin, Texas, who’s scholarly parents are working on a book that involves a six month trip through Europe. The parents had hoped that Lucas and his two little brothers would have a great time; Lucas isn’t. He didn’t want to leave his friends and soccer team, and be dragged from place to place while having to write a journal about what he sees, with accompanying photographs, for school back home. And the excitement his parents and next older brother feel about all they are seeing and learning makes him feel like the odd one out in the family–he struggles with school work, and feels like a failure. When he learns he’s in danger of failing his project, and 8th grade as a result, his spirits sink further.
But Rome takes an interest in him, in the form of a strange old woman who give him a mysterious coin, which takes him back in time. A visit to the colosseum, when it was still in use, give him a visceral appreciation for history, and a visit to Michelangelo painting the Sistine chapel gives him a new appreciation for dedication to art, and he begins to think that his own photographic talent is possibly more real than he’d previously thought. And then other trips to past, some accompanied by his new Italian friend, Vivi, a girl with her own dreams of a career as a singer, cement his growing realization that he isn’t a failure after all.
It’s a fun story, with time travel both as teaching tool and sightseeing adventures, and many kids might find Lucas’s journey to a sense of self-worth inspiring (although it turns out he is in fact a super talented photographer, which is nice for him, but which might make kids who don’t actually have undiscovered talents feel depressed). I was annoyed with Lucas’s parents, who basically have been using him as a baby-sitter for his younger brothers while going about their work, but they are more supportive than he thinks they are.
On the plus side for all ages–this is a great sightseeing trip to Rome, and worth reading just for that!