AN “ACTION-PACKED” adventure will transport young readers back in time to ancient Rome.

Classics scholar and Latin teacher Annelise Gray has published her debut children’s book Circus Maximus: Race to the Death, which is out today (March 4) on World Book Day.

The author, who has previously published two books for adult readers, says she feels “incredibly excited” about releasing her latest book and admits “this is the book of which I’m proudest”.

It tells the story of Dido who dreams of becoming the first girl to race chariots at the Circus Maximus.

“My main inspiration was the horse and pony adventure stories I loved when I was a child. My favourite was Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet, which is about a young girl who wins a horse in a village raffle and dreams of riding him to victory at the Grand National. My central character Dido is brave and horse-mad like Bagnold’s Velvet Brown but she lives in ancient Rome and her ambition is to become the first girl to race chariots at the Circus Maximus, the greatest sporting stadium in the world,” said Annelise.



In writing the book, Annelise, enjoyed a "fascinating" journey into the world of chariot racing and said: "There are so many parallels with modern sporting culture, from the fans’ obsession with their favourite teams to corruption in the form of race-fixing."

On what readers can expect, the author, who lives on the Wiltshire/Dorset border in Donhead St Mary, said: “An action-packed, fast-paced historical adventure aimed at readers aged 9 and up. I’ve researched it carefully so that all the details about Rome and the world of chariot-racing are accurate. But it’s not a history lesson disguised as a novel. Hopefully it will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired by Dido’s courage.”

Annelise, who previously worked as a researcher for authors and TV companies, has already published a history of the women of the Roman Empire and a crime novel set in the Roman Republic but this is the first book she has written for children.

She said: "The books that have had the greatest impact on me were the ones I read as a child. So it felt really joyous to try and write a story that my younger self might have loved (though I hope adult readers will enjoy it too)."

Her interest in ancient Roman was sparked when she started learning Latin at the age of 13. She added: "Our textbook was about a family living in Pompeii before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I was absolutely gripped waiting to find out which characters would survive at the end."

The author has a PhD in Classics from Cambridge, where she was taught by Mary Beard.

On what it was like to be taught by Mary, Annelise said: "A lot of fun. I applied to Newnham College, Cambridge because I wanted to be taught by her. She’s very loyal to her students and she helped me get my first job after I finished my doctorate."

Work has already stared on the second book in the Circus Maximus series.

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