Sacri Pulli: A Tale of War on Chickens. A Novice Level text centered in the Intercultural Standard

Level C books should be around the Novice high range.  Other titles in level C are:

Lucia Puella Mala– Follow Lucia throughout her escapades around her Roman house and family.

Pluto:  fabula amoris – The famous story of Pluto and Proserpina.  The story cleverly changes perspectives from multiple characters.

Sacri Pulli:  a Tale of War and Chickens by Emma Vanderpool offers students novice level reading material centered around superstitious practices from ancient Rome.  I am excited for this title which is centered around the historical character, Publius Claudius Pulcher.

From the beginning students meet a sacred Roman chicken.  Piccius introduces himself in the 1st person, which gives students numerous repetitions with 1st person verbs.  The reader learns where Piccius lives with exposure to the locative case and we learn about more chickens that live with Piccius offering the reader repetitions with 1st person plural verbs.  All of this happens in the first few pages as we are introduced to Marcus who seems to be the keeper of more than the average chickens.

Vocabulary centered around food and eating shows up quickly as the reader learns about the daily life of these special chickens.  Verbs like edere, bibere and placere are used often but continue a compelling narrative.  Some obscure phrasing is glossed and easily identified by any reader.  While the personality of the sacred chicken unfolds, the reader experiences ideas of power or potestas from the perspective of the chicken.  A clever way for a novice learner to dig into this idea.

Chapter 2 switches to Marcus’ perspective.  Marcus cleverly tells the reader why he isn’t a chicken which repeats much vocabulary from chapter 1.  This allows the novice reader a chance to connect more deeply, even with the obscure vocabulary like globire, to cluck.  The locative and indirect object are reinforced from Marcus’ perspective along with subjects, 1st person and objects.  Infinitive constructions with negotium est ad meaning yet are simple to follow even for the novice reader.

As the story continues present participles and possessive genitives add much meaning to the story as it recycles vocabulary yet continues to expand language use little by little.  The balance between sheltered vocabulary and new words to expand meaning flows well throughout the story.  The reader meets Publius Claudius Pulcher as the plot turns to war and the relationship between Rome and Carthage.

I plan to encourage this title to Latin 1 readers interested in history who are looking for a challenge or to the average Latin 2 reader who is interested in history.  I imagine this title would support a curriculum that leads to AP Latin with it’s introduction to vocabulary and ideas around the Romans and war while it is appropriate for Novice level readers.  The use of the chickens and the chicken keeper to tell the story adds interesting elements of daily life to the story.  I imagine even a reader not as interested in Roman history would be pulled back into the story with the daily life of the elements representing the superstition of the Romans.

Recently, my curriculum director approved a purchase of class sets of certain novellas.  I wish I had room for one more as I would add Sacri Pulli:  a Tale of War and Chickens.  In my situation there isn’t room for more class novels but as I read more of this title I imagine this would fit well as Pre-AP reading material.  I know there are more titles that would fit AP ideals.  I think I have a new goal and project for our novellas.  I imagine a list of readers for students to complete if their goal is to finish with AP Latin during our 4th year.  This could be given to students in Latin 1 with the thought that students do some of this reading on their own over summer months.

Sacri Pulli:  a Tale of War and Chickens attempts to thread a difficult needle with sheltered vocabulary in a story that covers Roman history and daily life superstitions for the Romans at the same time.  It seems to pull it off well and I am excited to encourage students interested in history to choose it as a self directed reading selection.  Initially I placed Sacri Pulli:  a Tale of War and Chickens in level B.  Because of the change in perspective and movement from daily life superstitions to war and back I have moved the title to level C.  The present tense narrative makes it a suitable title for established novice readers.

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