Time-traveling golden retriever Ranger is back, this time saving the day in ancient Rome.
Marcus Cassius is an 11-year-old who’s been a slave at the Ludus Magnus gladiator school in Rome since his parents died in a fire. Marcus dreams of becoming a gladiator and winning his freedom, but he can’t begin training until he’s 16. When new recruit Quintus becomes his bunkmate, Marcus gives him pointers he’s learned from watching gladiators for the past five years. Words and definitions for elements of gladiator and ancient Roman life are woven into the story naturally (though a glossary is provided for extra support) and help create a vibrant setting. Meanwhile, Ranger is enjoying life with his modern-day family when the magic first-aid box from Rescue on the Oregon Trail (2015) begins humming. Ranger knows this means someone needs his help and slips it on, transporting himself to the amphitheater Marcus is showing Quintus. The rest of the book is a series of well-paced adventures (interspersed with full-page illustrations) that end with Ranger helping both boys gain their freedom. The quality of the research behind these stories shines through: the setting is vivid, the characters are well-drawn, and the writing flows.
A great choice for fans of the Magic Treehouse series, who will be looking forward to Ranger’s next adventure. (Adventure. 5-9)