That’s not a sand-castle, I’m building a temple to Mithras!

Rosemary Sutcliff relished the imagination and creativity of children, as well as the responses of readers (young and old)  to her novels and stories. Brian Alderson, former Children’s Books Editor of The Times, once recalled in an article in Books for Keeps an anecdote which dates from some time after the publication of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth in 1954. Rosemary recounted to a ‘bevy of librarians’:

‘That’s not a sand-castle,’ said the busy child on the beach, ‘I’m building a temple to Mithras’! Read More »

Teaching history without the facts? That’s just sociology!

“Teaching history without the facts? That’s just sociology” argues Brian Viner today.  The great historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff certainly thought that dates and facts mattered, although she wrote fiction. Thus for example the dates and periods of her Roman Novels:

The Eagle of the Ninth – 129 AD
The Silver Branch – 284 AD
Frontier Wolf – 343 AD
The Lantern Bearers – 410+ AD
Sword At Sunset – 5th century
Dawn Wind – mid-late 6th century
Sword Song – early 10th century
The Shield Ring – 11th century

And the dates of publication matter, for those who would explore Rosemary Sutcliff’s writing more critically, thus: The Eagle of the Ninth (1954)The Shield Ring (1956)The Silver Branch (1957), The Lantern Bearers (1959)Dawn Wind (1961)Sword At Sunset (1963)Frontier Wolf (1980).

Frustrated to learn that his 16-year-old son, a student of  History A-Level, “… knew neither the year, nor even the century, in which the Spanish Armada set sail”, Brian Viner is provoking and amusing at The Guardian comment-is-free pages about “chronological teaching of history”. He is for some dates, despite recalling that 1066 And All That, was subtitled  A Memorable History of England comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings, and 2 Genuine Dates. Read More »

I kissed a girl at Clusium | From The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

All of which set me thinking about poems and songs in Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels. Such as the snatches of a legionnaires’ song in The Eagle of the Ninth.

Oh when I joined the Eagles
(As it might be yesterday)
I kissed a girl at Clusium
Before I marched away
A long march, a long march
And twenty years in store
When I left my girl at Clusium
Beside the threshing-floor

The girls of Spain were honey-sweet,
And the golden girls of Gaul:
And the Thracian maids were soft as birds
To hold the heart in thrall.
But the girl I kissed at Clusium
Kissed and left at Clusium,
The girl I kissed at Clusium
I remember best of all

Michael Rosen investigates discussing feelings now in the classroom | Teacher used Rosemary Sutcliff in 1970s

Michael RosenOne of the best-known figures in the children’s book world, the excellent Michael Rosen has a “serious question” to ask at his blog this week about “classroom discussion”:

How many hours a week is it possible to have a discussion with a class or within a class where ideas are discussed – not as a debate with ‘sides’ but simply discussing ideas? And parallel with that: how many hours or minutes a week is it possible to talk about feelings? Or both at the same time? This kind of discussion might arise out of a book, a poem, a song, a piece of art – or just stimulated by something that has happened or that someone has seen. Or indeed from eg Philosophy lesson or Circle Time.

Answers please on a postcard – no – on facebook or twitter please. Just curious to know how much room there is for this sort of thing now. Any Key Stage.
Source: Michael Rosen.

… and I would add, I am interested in anyone using Rosemary Sutcliff‘s work or life to prompt such discussion in classrooms. I recently posted a quote from Margaret Meek in Books for Keeps which points to just the sort of discussion I take Michael Rosen to value. But that was many years ago.

… I remember, with gratitude and some pain, a class of girls in a London secondary school in the early seventies. The parents of most of them had come from the Caribbean; I guess their own children are now in school. Then they were the first of their kind to speak out their awareness of the complications we now call `multi-cultural’. They were reading with their gifted teacher, Joan Goody, The Eagle of the Ninth (by Rosemary Sutcliff). On this particular day they ignored the dashing young Roman hero, recovering from a battle wound in his uncle’s house in Bath, and concentrated on the girl next door, Cottia, a Briton. Cottia’s uncle and aunt were taking her to the games, and in their hankering after Roman ways had tried to insist that she wear Roman clothes and speak Latin. Cottia protested, and so did the readers, on her behalf. I’ve never heard a more spirited discussion than that one, when those girls spoke indirectly of their nearest concerns in arguing on behalf of Cottia, who existed only in a book.
Source: Article by Margaret Meek | Books for Keeps Issue 64