The Adventures of Nagel of Ancient Babylonia
by Wilma R. Forester
Trafford Publishing

"Her eyes were fastened on the prey and her back leg muscles bunched and quivered ready to spring. Nagel screamed at her. Was it too late...?"

Historical fiction for children has been a staple of the publishing industry for a very long time. The bulk in English, however, is normally set in familiar time periods and locations such as during a famous war of the not-so-distant past in one of the Western countries. Others may be placed in more far-flung regions yet still in eras that are relatively easy to research such as China during the Warring States period or Colonial India. Part of what makes Forester's work so unique is that she chooses to put her protagonist in a time and land few but scholars know much about: Ancient Babylonia. Yet despite the strangeness of the setting, young readers should still be able to identify with Nagel's experiences since, in the author's words, "The triumph of the human spirit is ageless."

Captured at a very young age and sold into slavery, Nagel feels he is a "nobody" since he is ignorant of his roots. Part of Master Arme's wealthy household, he struggles to keep the promise he once made to never run away. Yet life's circumstances will one day set him on a course where keeping his word will be difficult as he faces dangerous lions, being held hostage, discovering his true heritage, and falling in love.

Nagel's tale is both entertaining and heart-warming as a discouraged slave boy grows up to become a man both in outlook and in stature. Much of the beauty of Forester's work is in the layout of the book itself, with its faux-parchment pages and the author's own illustrations designed to look like ancient mosaics and paintings. But it is the attitude changes seen as Nagel matures that make this engaging coming-of-age story worth reading.

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