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Lost and Found

Written by Mary Pope OsborneAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Bonnie ChristensenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Bonnie Christensen

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The famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius that snuffed out life in Pompeii and buried the town has long been a fascinating moment in history for children. This book presents that dramatic story with Mary Pope Osborne’s brief text and with stunning frescoes created by Bonnie Christensen, using the same colors, style, and technique as the ancient frescoes unearthed at Pompeii. In addition to the destruction of Pompeii and the rediscovery of the ruins nearly 1,700 years later, the book shows what daily life was like in this prosperous Roman town in the year 79 A.D.
Mary Pope Osborne|Bonnie Christensen

About Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne - Pompeii

Photo © Paul Coughlin

“I’m one of those very lucky people who absolutely loves what they do for a living. There is no career better suited to my eccentricities, strengths, and passions than that of a children’s book author.”—Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne is the author of the popular Magic Tree House series. She works with her husband Will and her sister Natalie on the nonfiction companion series, Magic Tree House Research Guides. Many of her books have been named to best-books lists.


“I grew up in the military. By the time I was 15, I had lived in Oklahoma, Austria, Florida, and four different army posts in Virginia and North Carolina. Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was. When my dad finally retired to a small town in North Carolina, I nearly went crazy with boredom. I craved the adventure and changing scenery of our military life. Miraculously, one day I found these things, literally only a block away—at the local community theater. From then on, I spent nearly every waking hour after school there.

“After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1970s, I lived an intensely varied life. For a while I camped in a cave on the island of Crete. Then I joined up with a small band of European young people heading to ‘The East.’ We traveled through 11 Asian countries and nearly lost our lives, first in an earthquake in northern Afghanistan and then in a riot in Kabul. My trip came to an abrupt halt in Katmandu when I got blood poisoning. During the two weeks I spent in a missionary hospital there, I read all of the Tolkien trilogy. To this day, my journey to ‘The East’ is tangled up in my mind with Frodo’s adventures.

“After I returned home and recovered from my illness, I promptly headed back into the real world. I worked as a window dresser, as a medical assistant, and as a Russian travel consultant. One night I attended the opening of a musical about Jesse James. From the balcony, I fell in love with Will Osborne, the actor/musician playing Jesse. I loved his boots and his white cowboy hat; I loved how he sang and strummed the guitar. A year later, in New York City, we were married.

“Thereafter, when I wasn’t on the road with Will, I worked as a waitress, taught acting classes in a nursing home, was a bartender, and had a job as an assistant editor for a children’s magazine.

“Then one day, out of the blue, I began writing a story about an 11-year-old girl in the South. The girl was a lot like me, and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my childhood. The first draft was crudely written, but it must have communicated something to an editor, because shortly after I finished, it became a young adult novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. Finally, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

"Now 24 years and 80 books later, I think I’m one of the most fortunate people on earth. Whenever I work on a book, I feel as if I’ve traveled to some amazing place in the world. Writing Tales from the Odyssey, I sailed with Odysseus through the ancient Greek world. Working on the Spider Kane Mysteries, I spent time in an abandoned cottage garden with a group of nutty and wonderful insects. Working on my novel Haunted Waters, I lived in a haunted castle with a sea spirit. While working on my new picture book, Pompeii: Lost and Found, I felt as if I myself were excavating an ancient Roman city. And of course, with my Magic Tree House series, I take daily journeys with Jack and Annie to different times and places, from the prehistoric world of dinosaurs to the world of Camelot. Though there are 36 books of fiction and 13 non-fiction books in the Magic Tree House series now, I don’t think I’ll ever run out of places to travel to in my imagination.

"The Magic Tree House has also whisked me to schools all over the country, and the contact I now have with millions of readers has brought overwhelming joy into my life. I love the letters I get and I love reading the countless Magic Tree House stories that children themselves have written. I feel as if my readers and I are all exploring the creative process together, using our imaginations and writing skills to take us wherever we want to go. This, I tell my small fellow authors, is true magic."


We passed an old dilapidated tree house . . .

I spent a year trying different ways to get two kids back in time. I tried an enchanted cellar with magic whistles, an enchanted museum, and an enchanted artist’s studio. I wrote seven different manuscripts using different magical devices and nothing worked. Then on a walk in the country with my husband, we passed an old dilapidated tree house. We started talking about the tree house . . . and continued talking about it. The next day I tried writing about it—to see if it might possibly be magic. And it was.

I’m aching to hang out with penguins . . .

My stories always coincide with my personal interests, which seem fairly unlimited at this point. I find that the more you learn, the more you want to learn. I want to take Jack and Annie to Antarctica. I’m aching to hang out with penguins.

They started dreaming me up . . .

At first I just dreamed Jack and Annie up. They seem so happy and complete. I don’t want to subject them to the awful peer pressure that comes with growing older. They’d probably start hanging around the mall instead of climbing into the tree house.

My brothers and I had great adventures on our bikes and in the woods and on the beach where we lived. We felt as though we’d been to far distant worlds by the time we came home—adventures we happily kept to ourselves. I want kids to live through Jack and Annie’s independent journeys as well as their own!

It’s harmonious teamwork . . .

My editor has had an incalculable impact on these books. She has worked on all [the] books to date, and has been a great inspiration and guide. The series has a wonderful illustrator, Sal Murdocca. Sal researches the illustrations himself, and he’s very flexible and open to my ideas. The series’ designer and editor also have input into the art. It’s harmonious teamwork.


I’m a creature of constant change . . .

No two days of writing for the last 20 odd years have been the same. I write at every time of the day. I carry my laptop to every part of the house—or to places outside the house. I’m a creature of constant change. I do a lot of research before I start writing, but I do a great deal more after I start writing, as I confront more and more questions about the subject matter.

I’m living an extraordinary life . . .

The best part of being a writer is being transported to other places and living other experiences. By surrounding myself with the smells, weather, animals, and people of imaginary landscapes, I feel as if I’m living an extraordinary life. The worst part of being a writer is not having enough time or energy to write all the things I want to write.

I started writing poetry in high school . . .

I was living in North Carolina and I loved the work of Thomas Wolfe. Not until my late twenties did I have any idea I could be a writer. I only knew that I loved living in my imagination, and that no matter what job I was doing, my mind and thoughts were elsewhere. I was ready to settle for being a professional daydreamer.

I’ve had too many favorite authors to list . . .

As a child, I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett and Laura Ingalls Wilder. In my teen years: Thomas Wolfe, J. D. Salinger, Hermann Hesse, and Jack Kerouac. In my twenties: Tolstoy, Nabokov, E. B. White, and Colette. Since then I’ve had too many to list. The Little Princess, The Three Ugly Sisters, and Big Farmer Big were my favorite books.

To aspiring writers:

Write, write, write. Always try to have fun and at the same time always do the hard work of rewriting.

Mary Pope Osborne is the author of many highly acclaimed books for children and young adults, including novels, picture books, biographies, mysteries, and retellings of fairy tales, myths, and tall tales. She has completed two terms as president of the Author’s Guild, the leading organization for professional writers in the United States.



“Mary Pope Osborne provides nicely paced excitement for young readers, and there’s just enough information mixed in so that children will take away some historical fact along with a sense of accomplishment at having completed a chapter book.”—Children’s Literature on the Magic Tree House series

“A rousing adventure tale filled with dancing fairies, white stags, and hideous beasts.”—School Library Journal on Christmas in Camelot


—A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
—A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
—An NCSS–CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
—An ABC Children’s Booksellers’ Choice Award


—An American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
—A Parents Magazine Best Book of the Year


—An Edgar Award Nominee for Best Juvenile Mystery


—A Parents’ Choice Story Book Honor
—A Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Book of the Year

The Ways We Worship

—An Orbis Pictus Honor Book, National Council of Teachers of English

About Bonnie Christensen

Bonnie Christensen - Pompeii
Bonnie Christensen illustrated the Folio Society’s limited edition of The Grapes of Wrath and several children’s books, including Moon over Tennessee: A Boy’s Civil War Journal.


NOMINEE South Carolina Children's Book Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


Teaching a Unit on
Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are the Earth’s way of reminding its inhabitants of its awe-inspiring power. While the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried Pompeii is perhaps the most famous natural disaster in history, students who have been following current events over just the last few years have seen natural forces wreak havoc around the globe. Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, tornadoes in the Midwestern United States, and hurricanes off the Central American and North American coastlines have killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed or damaged billions of dollars in property. Learning about natural disasters provides students with an understanding of the workings of weather conditions, gives information on how to stay safe should a natural disaster occur in their part of the world, and helps foster a respect for the Earth’s dynamic forces.


From Magic Tree House series author Mary Pope Osborne, with stunning frescoes by Bonnie Christensen, Pompeii: Lost & Found describes the destruction, rediscovery, and archaeological findings of the ancient Roman town of Pompeii, buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.


in their own words . . .

Mary Pope Osborne

Q: When and how did you become interested in learning about Pompeii?
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by Pompeii. I first “visited” Pompeii a number of years ago, writing Vacation Under the Volcano, a Magic Tree House book, and more recently, Ancient Rome and Pompeii, a Magic Tree House Research Guide co-authored with my sister Natalie Pope Boyce.

Q: What was the most interesting fact that you discovered about Pompeii?
I think the most interesting thing about the discovery of Pompeii was that archaeologists were able to “bring back” many of the people who died there. After the volcano erupted, thousands of people were buried under tons of ash. When their bodies decayed, they left empty spaces inside the hardened ash. By pouring plaster into these spaces, archeologists were able to replicate the forms of some of the people and animals of Pompeii.

Q: What are the rewards of writing nonfiction?
I love writing nonfiction because I learn so much while doing my research. I also enjoy the process of bringing order to all the information I’ve gathered, so that I can tell a complicated story to kids in a simple and direct way.

Bonnie Christensen

Q: When did you first begin drawing?
My father always encouraged me to draw. He began compiling a notebook of my drawings when I was five . . . I still have many [of them]. There is an example of one of those early drawings on my Web site: www.bonniechristensen.com.

Q: When doing the illustrations for Pompeii: Lost & Found, what was the hardest part of the fresco painting process?
The hardest part of painting frescoes is completing the painting before the plaster dries. Once the drawing was transferred to the plaster I had about 24 hours to complete the painting. This usually meant working full-time (no lunch break) on the painting for 12 hours one day then 4—5 hours the next day. I spritzed the painting with water and kept it wrapped in plastic overnight, then would get up very early in the morning to finish it.

Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
The world is too big and history of art too long and I’m too indecisive to have a favorite artist. I admire Giovanni Bellini, Jacques-Louis David, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Käthe Kollwitz, and Robert Rauschenberg among others. I admire the way each reflects in his or her art the time in which they lived, and their personal perspective.


pre-reading activity

As part of the ancient Roman Empire, Pompeii was a flourishing town located along the Mediterranean Sea, in what is now south central Italy. Spend time researching this period in history with students by exploring Roman structures of government, social class, art, culture, architecture, and everyday life.

connecting to the curriculum

Language Arts
–Archaeologists who have excavated the Pompeian site have discovered inscriptions on buildings and graffiti on walls written in Latin. Explore how Latin word roots are an instrumental aspect of the English language. Challenge students to make a glossary of common English words and their Latin derivations.

Social Studies
–In ancient Roman life, the forum was an area of a city or town where much activity took place, such as commerce, religious worship, and politics. Along with students, explore the Roman system of government and how it has influenced the American governmental system. How are they alike and how are they different?

–While excavating the site of ancient Pompeii, archaeologists have uncovered thousands of artifacts that inform scientists about daily life in this ancient society. Challenge students to build a time capsule containing objects that describe life in the early 21st century. Each student should write a paragraph about his or her chosen object describing how it reflects contemporary society, then attach a picture of him- or herself and the paragraph to the object. Enclose all student objects in an airtight, waterproof container on which the date the capsule is sealed is written. With permission from the school administrator, choose a time and place to bury the container on school property.

Visual Arts
–In Pompeii: Lost & Found, illustrator Bonnie Christensen describes the ancient art of fresco painting. (p. 36) Have students go online to research images of frescoes found in the Pompeii excavation site. Work with the school art teacher to help students create small-scale fresco paintings of a scene from their everyday life.

Performing Arts
–Theater was a popular form of entertainment in ancient Rome. Masks were common props: those with frowns signified sad or tragic characters; those with smiles indicated happy or comic characters. Again working with the school art teacher, have students make masks in the Roman style. Choose an ancient story, such as one of Aesop’s fables, to perform before the class.

–Discuss and research the work of volcanologists. To us, Mount Vesuvius is the volcano that destroyed Pompeii. To the Pompeians, it was a lovely hillside where sheep grazed and farmers grew grapes and olives for wine and oil. Discuss with students the science of volcanoes, including how they are formed and what causes a volcano to erupt.

internet resources

BBC: Ancient History
This site, posted by the BBC, is a comprehensive look at the events leading up to, during, and after the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

How Volcanoes Work
This site explains in great detail how volcanoes work and offers excellent imagery of many of the world’s active volcanoes.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
2004 Tsunami
A comprehensive Web page containing information on the 2004 tsunami that destroyed the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, Thailand, and other countries.

2005 Hurricane Katrina
A detailed and regularly updated Web page concerning the hurricane that destroyed New Orleans.

CNN’s coverage of the 2004 tsunami, and its aftereffects in the Indian Ocean.


Ask students to write down unfamiliar words and try to define them by taking clues from the context of the novel. Such words may include: amphitheater (p. 21), archaeologist (p. 13), architect (p. 11), fresco (p. 13), forum (p. 29), gladiator (p. 21), inscription (p. 11), perished (p. 35), petrified (p. 19), ruins (p. 11), scrolls (p. 22), villa (p. 11)


More information on Christensen’s fresco work can be found at:
(See below for live link.)


Pompeii . . . Buried Alive!
Edith Kunhardt Davis
Nature & the Natural World • Weather
Grades 2—4 / PB: 0-394-88866-9
Random House Children’s Books

Twister on Tuesday
Mary Pope Osborne
Nature & the Natural World • Weather
Grades K—3 / PB: 0-679-89069-6 / GLB: 0-679-99069-0
Random House Children’s Books


pompeii and other natural disasters: a guide

Grades 1—7

Pompeii: Lost & Found
Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

Dangerous Planet
Bryn Barnard

Twisters and Other Terrible Storms
Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Sal Murdocca


Prepared by Colleen Carroll, Education Consultant, Curriculum Writer and Children’s Book Author, Sleepy Hollow, NY.



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