Squeakus!

those who enjoy teaching lessons on the Greeks and Romans may be weeping into their copies of Herodotus over the news that ancient history A-level faces the axe.

But there is some cheerful news (of the selling-coals-to-Newcastle and fridges-to-Eskimos variety) for classics teachers.

Minimus, the cartoon mouse, whose series of books has brought Latin to thousands of British primary schools since 1999, has extended his empire to Italy.

Two books about the intrepid rodent are to be translated for older pupils in schools from Verona to Rome, taking Latin back to its roots.

Minimus is the creation of Barbara Bell, who taught Latin and Greek in independent secondary schools in England for more than 20 years. She says she hopes the books will help Italians get to grips with both Latin and their own grammar.

In the originals, Minimus lives with a family and their cat, Vibrissa, in the British Roman town of Vindolanda near Hadrian's Wall. They later move to York.

But the Italian Minimus is more widely travelled: his adventures will begin in Rome, taking in a trip to Germany, then England.

Elisabetta Valfre, the Italian translator, says the adventures of the cosmopolitan mouse "present an early vision of a united Europe".

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