Friday, February 28, 2014


by Jacob Abbott
2009, 202 pages

How do you make history come alive for teens? Sometimes it means turning to an author long dead.

Jacob Abbott died 125 years ago, but a quick read through this volume explains why his books endure. The original 1853 edition of Nero is available for free in many places online, and is well worth downloading to your Kindle. But it does benefit from the updating that publisher Canon Press has done to their version. Some longer 70-word sentences have been broken up and editor Lucy Zoe Jones has also replaced a few obscure words like "declivities," "salubrity," and "preternatural." Little else was required.

Now, Nero's life might not seem like appropriate material for a biography aimed at teens – this Roman emperor indulged in every sort of immorality. However Abbott is both a tactful and talented writer. He doesn't delve into the salacious details, so younger readers will only encounter a broad overview of Nero's wickedness. But Abbott does tuck in a bit more information in between the lines, there to be read and understood by older, less naive readers. It's an impressive feat.

Like many good teen books, adults will enjoy this as well - it is a engaging introduction to a key figure in both Church and Western history.

For Canadian readers, this edition is available at, and in the US you can get it at here.

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