Piso has grown old. For years, people have been telling Piso how to write his own poetry. They’ve wanted it to sound like the legendary poet, Vergilimartivenallus, widely considered the GOAT, but Piso doesn’t take suggestions from those who don’t write any poetry of their own. Besides, that would change Piso’s verses into something they aren’t—someone else’s. He’s got plenty of advocates, anyway. But the mob persists, and keeps trying to get Piso to change how he writes. Mysteriously, the more Piso tries to write in his own voice, the more things start to get a bit…Strange.
18 cognates, 26 other words 800 total length
Who wants satire? I do, I do! You should know that no hexameter was harmed in the writing of this novellula (<– that word is even in the subtitle). In fact, we skipped the meter [almost] entirely. That’s basically it. Oh, and if you’re familiar with Pīsō et Syra et pōtiōnēs mysticae, and/or a personal favorite, diāria sīderum, there’s some stuff in here for ya. So, let’s welcome another <50-word tiny little book to the collection.
When someone shares the latest novella to the Latin Best Practices Facebook group, I add it to my list, then drop the link into my budget/item request form at school so I can get a copy. I order one, read it, then order more if it’s gonna work well for first year Latin students. I’ll order a lot more if it’s a hit, or maybe 1-2 if it seems good but a little above reading level. Once I notice students always going for a particular title during independent reading time, I might even order enough so we can read some of the book as a whole class. N.B. no, I don’t always finish books as a whole class, especially if it’s been more than 3 weeks of reading.
Olianna learns more about herself and her family in this psychological thriller continuation of “Olianna et obiectum magicum.” We begin at a critical moment in the original, yet in this new tale, not only does the magical object appear to Olianna, but so do a pair of extraordinary sandals! Olianna has some choices to make. How will her decisions affect the timeline? Will things ever get back to normal? If so, is that for the better, or worse?
20 cognates, 20 other words 1500 total length
While many Pisoverse novellas contain references to each other, none of them are what I would consider a sequel. This new book is different, though, picking up immediately in mediās rēs of an event towards the end of Olianna et obiectum magicum. As a true sequel, then, Olianna et sandalia extraōrdināria was deliberately written to include almost all the vocab from the original. The result is a book with 40 words, but just half are new. This reduces the vocab burden for any reader already familiar with the first book.
Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote about Latin shaming in what’s turning out to be a quasi-annual public discussion on Latinity (i.e., quality of Latin). In 2020, the discussions concerned Latin spoken in the classroom as well as published works. This year, I’m told the focus is on novellas, which might have something to do with their proliferation. After all, in February of 2020 there were 52 books. Having doubled that number to 113 as of last week, and going from 18 author voices to 26, there’s a lot more different Latin being written now. Different Latin must lead to more opinions about that Latin. Granted, I haven’t been a part of these public discussions myself, but word gets around. Perhaps the 2023 panel on what it means to teach students to actually read Latin has spurred the latest round of things-Latīnitās. I have no idea for sure. Suffice to say that Latin shaming still plagues the profession. Instead of full-out shaming, though, this post sticks to general criticism. In my experience, there are two broad categories of criticism: that which matters, and that which doesn’t…
An obvious nod to Petronius’ Cena Trimalchionis, yes, but this is not an adaptation, by any means. In this tale, Terrex can’t get anything right during his latest dinner party. He’s confused about Catullus’ carmina, and says silly things left and right as his guests do all they can to be polite, though patience is running low. With guests fact-checking amongst themselves, can Terrex say something remotely close to being true? Will the guests mind their manners and escape without offending their host?
41 cognates, 56 other words 2600 total length
I cannot say this is my last book for good, but it’s the final Pisoverse novella I have planned. It’s probably my most comical book, too, which feels like a nice way to wrap up the series. The novella also fills a gap between the highest word counts of my Beginner level and the few narratives at Low Intermediate. Wordplay is certainly a highlight as Terrex makes up words, though still within conventions of Latin word-formations (see Errāta Terregis screenshot in the slideshow). Anyone with some familiarity with Catullus should get a kick out of Terrex’s blunders, too. In sum, this book is entertaining, for sure.
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Not every book is a home run, and that’s fine. As educators, we can’t please everyone, nor should we aim to. Those who do tend to spend very little time in education, anyway. They burn out, and so do students. This concept applies to novellas for sure, and how I’ve come to let go of trying to write (and find) the most-compelling texts in existence. Instead, and more importantly, most novellas available provide lots of reading options for the beginning Latin student, below- or at their reading level, on a range of topics. This is the point, and this is sustainable. Of the 113 novellas on my list, probably half realistically can be read by most students in years 1 & 2, half of the rest in year 3, and the remaining ones in year 4+. They’re not all home runs, and that’s fine. With a strong independent reading program in my school for the past years, I’ve observed that there will be at least one book that each student really gets into, and the rest is input they have mild to strong opinions about. That’s a victory.
Marcus has lost something valuable containing a secret message that once belonged to Julius Caesar. Even worse, it was passed down to Marcus’ father for safekeeping, and he doesn’t know it’s missing! As Marcus and his friend, Soeris, search Alexandria for clues of its whereabouts, hieroglyphs keep appearing magically. Yet, are they to help, or to hinder? Can Marcus decipher the hieroglyphs with Soeris’ help, and find Caesar’s secret message?
Of all the novellas we’ve read this year in Latin 1, Marcus has been the most enjoyed character and story overall. When I showed students the proof copy of Marcus’ new saga, one class even applauded. That’s the kind of program buy-in we’re building with consistent independent reading (below- or at-level), and that’s why I continue writing these kinds of books. The new Mārcus doesn’t disappoint. As stated in the preface…
“the purpose of including hieroglyphs throughout this book is not to teach the ancient Egyptian language. Instead, the purpose is to introduce students to the alphabet so they can begin to recognize them, not unlike exploring ancient Greek for short unit, as is common in many Latin courses. More broadly, the idea behind learning these alphabets is to introduce students to the ancient world beyond Rome, which tends to get all the attention when it comes to antiquity. So, I hope you enjoy this introduction to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs via Latin!”
Not much was known about The Architects—guardians of the stars—until their diaries were found in dark caves sometime during the Tenth Age. Explore their mysterious observations from the Seventh Age (after the Necessary Conflict)—a time just before all evidence of their existence vanished for millennia! What happened to The Architects? Can you reconstruct the events that led to the disappearance of this ancient culture?
60-100 words, half cognates (i.e., 30-50)! 1000-3200 total length
Of all my books, I’m most excited for this one. Why? It’s my first completely new work of speculative fiction. What’s speculative fiction? It’s got elements from various genres, no-doubt SCI-FI, but without certain connotations one might expect, like being a nerdy genre. I like its characterization as “modern mythmaking,” and this book does just that. In diāria sīderum, I’ve created a new culture not connected to ours or the Romans, yet still plausibly within our universe somewhere along some an ancient timeline in the future. In fact, I approached the details of The Architects with intercultural competence in mind. What might their products and practices tell us? How are known cultures similar? How are they different?
I’m not gonna say anything else. Just know that there’s a LOT of details lurking about in this book that a beginner Latin reader could pick up on, especially if they spend some FVR time (Free Voluntary Reading) after you start the first section as a whole class. Besides, it’s a “who-dun-it?” of sorts, with a clear trail waiting to be discovered. Don’t skip the audio on this one, either. Enjoy!
It’s been years since I’ve given a quiz. I know that seems crazy coming from a teacher, but there are just so many other ways to get evidence of learning, like The Monitor Assessment, that I haven’t had to bother with quizzes much at all. When I did give them, they were sneaky ways of reading and rereading. In other words, all my quizzes were input-based. This meant that the learning experience (i.e., of receiving input) took place during the assessment. In the literature, this is known as an UNOBTRUSIVE assessment, whereas an obtrusive one would be when there’s an abrupt stop to input and interaction so testing can occur. This is bad. It literally takes away time from learning, an no one wants (or needs) that. A couple examples of obtrusive assessments would be like pulling kids into the hall for some speaking test while who-knows-what is going in the classroom, or holding a “unit test day” that’s really just 20min of testing, then free time or busywork for those who finish. With unobtrusive input-based assessments, however, the learning (i.e., receiving of input) continues, and it’s not a complete waste of time.
Olianna is different from the rest of her family, and finds herself excluded as a result. Have you ever felt that way? One day, a magical object appears that just might change everything for good. However, will it really be for the better? Can you spot any morals in this tale told from different perspectives?