Thursday, February 05, 2009

Winners of the Golden Sponge-stick Award!

...and some of the runners up

Jeremy Pine, Head of Classics at the Royal High Bath, and organizer of the Golden Sponge-Stick Award for writing a Roman mystery, just sent me a selection of winning entries and some of the runners-up. I think they are all brilliant and I am now beginning to worry about competition! Here are the first few lines of each of the entries he sent me:

Rome in My Attic
‘You’ll never guess what is in my attic!’ whispered Kate, as she raced her friend Charlotte up the stairs. She had painted and decorated the attic to look like ancient Rome. They were learning it at school and Kate knew that Charlotte would be very interested because she loved history.’

by Isabel (8) winner in the under 9 category (above right, with her prize!)

When Kate and Charlotte get to the attic they find they are transported to ancient Roman times. Isabel does a great job of imagining what Roman Britain would look like to a 21st century schoolgirl, with lots of smells and strange sights.

‘The piece of wolf-skin tent I’ve been staring at for the past half-hour isn’t particularly interesting. In fact, if it had been any other time, I would have been bored to death long ago. But I needed something simple. Something pure that I could immerse myself in and blank out everything: the sound of merriment beyond the walls, the numbness of my hands, the hatred towards the people outside that I had known as friends for as long as I can remember.’

By Eilidh (13) second place in the 11-13 category

From a story about identical twin girls growing up in Roman Britain, with a surprising ending. One of the many reasons I love this entry is because Eilidh has really put herself in her character’s position. This is great stuff!

The Ghost
We made our way to the villa under a new moon and a cloudy sky, the chirrs of insects leaping out at us from all directions, picking through a wheat-field so overgrown and dark that I could barely walk through it without stumbling. It was neither the unnerving shadowy darkness of the city’s alleyways nor the serene darkness of a bedroom late at night.

by Lucy, winner of the 14+ category

A good old Roman ghost story, with plenty of tactile detail and a mysterious exorcist named Corvus.

Blood spattered the grass around Centurion Hortentius. The veteran lunged with his gladius yet again, taking the huge Briton in the throat. ‘Tighten the ranks!’ he bawled at his men, who compacted at the command. The noise of the fray was terrible: these naked warriors, leaping onto the weapons of the legionaries, seemed to be never ending, charging at the fragile line, screaming war-cries as they rushed to meet their deaths, taking as many of their hated foes as they could with them.

By Craig, second place in the 14+ category

A murder occurs in the middle of a bloody campaign of Romans in Britannia. This entry shows an excellent knowledge of how the Roman army fought with great attention to clues and procedures. I especially liked the phrase ‘a face like the back end of a cyclops.’ Simon Scarrow, watch your back!

*aperio means 'I reveal' in Latin

It was humiliating. Passed around from grimy hand to grimy hand, being held in such awkward positions that she yowled pitifully. Her own girl’s hands were gentler and cleaner. They knew where she liked to be petted and how she liked to be held. She would have scampered off by now if it wasn’t for the delicious prospect of a tender minute with her own girl.

by Josie, winner of the 11-13 category

Josie’s clever story is told from the point of view of a cat who witnesses the destruction of Pompeii and who tries to save her young mistress. Josie convincingly adopts the mentality of a cat, while keeping a Roman feel to her descriptions.

The Amphitheatre
‘Look, Rufus, it is about to begin!’ exclaimed Gusto, scampering to one of the highest viewing points. Rufus quickly followed as he did not want to miss anything. The crowd roared as the gladiators entered the amphitheatre, the sunlight gleaming off their armour. ‘Shift over I cannot see!’ Rufus nudged Gusto and he shuffled over.

by Emma, (11) winner of the 9-11 category

Another witty story told from an animal’s point of view. This time two rats watch the famous riot between Pompeians and Nucerians in the amphitheatre of Pompeii. I like the way Emma took a true historical incident and put her own rodent-y touch on it.

Well done to all who entered! Bene fecistis!

P.S. Winners/Placings: RHS Bath Golden Sponge-stick competition 2008
(awarded by Jerry Pine, Head of Classics, Royal High Senior School, Bath)

Under 9 age category:
1. Isabel Davies Jones, St Andrew’s School, Meads, Eastbourne
2. Eleanor Heathcock, Forest School, Altrincham, Cheshire
3. Beth Seaman, St John’s College School, Cambridge

9 -11 age category:
1. Emma Lewis, Berkhamsted Collegiate
2. Alina Clare Young, St Paul’s School for Girls , London
3. Angus Edward Henry King, Downsend School, Leatherhead

11 -13 age category:
1. Josie Heesom, Stamford High School
2. Eilidh Avison, Harris Academy, Dundee
3. Ava Davies, Wycombe Abbey School

14 and above age category :
1. Lucy Edwards, Norwich High School for Girls
2. Craig Rischmiller, Bristol Grammar School
3. Katy Morgan, Wells Blue School

‘Honorary’ international entries:
Resurrection-St Paul School, Ellicott, Maryland, USA
St Stephen’s School, Rome


  1. Dear Caroline -

    I'm a freelance writer who writes book reviews for Family Fun magazine. Our family are big fans of the Roman Mystery series, and I wrote a review of the series for Family Fun (it hasn't been published yet), as well as posting a review on my blog.

    I am wondering whether there are plans to make US-formatted DVDs available of the BBC show created from your books. If so, I would love to review those as well - in fact, having a DVD review to go with the book review might help convince my editor to publish it sooner!

    Please let me know if there are plans for U.S. DVDs. Thanks -

    Sue Jackson

  2. Salve, Sue!

    Sadly no plans for region 1 format DVD as yet but we are working on it! In the meantime, email me at and we'll talk!

  3. Anonymous8:03 PM

    I've never read 'Roman Mysteries' in my life - I was introduced to the compotition via my latin teacher. What are your stoies about? They sound interesting.