Title: Beyond the Desert Gate
Author: Mary Ray
Major Themes: Fall of Jerusalem, Roman Empire
Synopsis: Philo and his two brothers find themselves on opposing sides in the conflict between the Jews and the Romans in 70 AD.
This is a goodie. I remember thoroughly enjoying Beyond the Desert Gate when I first read it aloud a few years ago, and when I recently read it again, to another set of children, it was just as good. Mary Ray has a gift for making history come alive.
Beyond the Desert Gate is set in one of the cities of the Decapolis, to the east of Palestine, in what is now the country of Jordan. Philo’s father, a traveling merchant, finds a man staked out in the desert by the Romans and rescues him from a horrible death. When the man comes to, he cannot remember who he is or why he was where he was. He soon comes to realize that he must be a scribe, and educated, and then he remembers helping a group of mostly women and children to escape from Jerusalem. Why he was in Jerusalem when the Romans were setting out to finally destroy the rebellious Jews, he cannot remember.
Soon, the Romans have come to Philo’s city, not to conquer it but to gather forces to crush the Jews. Soon after, Philo’s father dies, and he and his two brothers must make their own way in the world, with the help of their friend who cannot remember his identity!
This story fleshes out the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish nation like no other book I’ve read. If you’re studying the Roman empire, particularly around 70 AD, you will want to read this story!
WARNING: Some violence, as is to be expected in wars. Chapters 1, 13, and 14 describe men being hurt or killed.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above