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Amber and Clay

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The Newbery Medal–winning author of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives readers a virtuoso performance in verse in this profoundly original epic pitched just right for fans of poetry, history, mythology, and fantasy. Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, “ringed by a restless sea,” live R The Newbery Medal–winning author of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives readers a virtuoso performance in verse in this profoundly original epic pitched just right for fans of poetry, history, mythology, and fantasy. Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, “ringed by a restless sea,” live Rhaskos and Melisto, spiritual twins with little in common beyond the violent and mysterious forces that dictate their lives. A Thracian slave in a Greek household, Rhaskos is as common as clay, a stable boy worth less than a donkey, much less a horse. Wrenched from his mother at a tender age, he nurtures in secret, aided by Socrates, his passions for art and philosophy. Melisto is a spoiled aristocrat, a girl as precious as amber but willful and wild. She’ll marry and be tamed—the curse of all highborn girls—but risk her life for a season first to serve Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Bound by destiny, Melisto and Rhaskos—Amber and Clay—never meet in the flesh. By the time they do, one of them is a ghost. But the thin line between life and death is just one boundary their unlikely friendship crosses. It takes an army of snarky gods and fearsome goddesses, slaves and masters, mothers and philosophers to help shape their story into a gorgeously distilled, symphonic tour de force. Blending verse, prose, and illustrated archaeological “artifacts,” this is a tale that vividly transcends time, an indelible reminder of the power of language to illuminate the over- and underworlds of human history.


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The Newbery Medal–winning author of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives readers a virtuoso performance in verse in this profoundly original epic pitched just right for fans of poetry, history, mythology, and fantasy. Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, “ringed by a restless sea,” live R The Newbery Medal–winning author of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives readers a virtuoso performance in verse in this profoundly original epic pitched just right for fans of poetry, history, mythology, and fantasy. Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, “ringed by a restless sea,” live Rhaskos and Melisto, spiritual twins with little in common beyond the violent and mysterious forces that dictate their lives. A Thracian slave in a Greek household, Rhaskos is as common as clay, a stable boy worth less than a donkey, much less a horse. Wrenched from his mother at a tender age, he nurtures in secret, aided by Socrates, his passions for art and philosophy. Melisto is a spoiled aristocrat, a girl as precious as amber but willful and wild. She’ll marry and be tamed—the curse of all highborn girls—but risk her life for a season first to serve Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Bound by destiny, Melisto and Rhaskos—Amber and Clay—never meet in the flesh. By the time they do, one of them is a ghost. But the thin line between life and death is just one boundary their unlikely friendship crosses. It takes an army of snarky gods and fearsome goddesses, slaves and masters, mothers and philosophers to help shape their story into a gorgeously distilled, symphonic tour de force. Blending verse, prose, and illustrated archaeological “artifacts,” this is a tale that vividly transcends time, an indelible reminder of the power of language to illuminate the over- and underworlds of human history.

30 review for Amber and Clay

  1. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    “Hermes here. The Greek god - / Don’t put down the book - / I’m talking to you. If the lines looks like poetry, / relax. This book is shorter than it looks.” He may be the god of liars and thieves, but here's one moment when Hermes is telling the truth. Funny story. I remember working as a children’s librarian in New York City when, one day, I got “that kid”. Librarians, you may have had “that kid” in your rooms as well at some point. It’s the kid that has read (their words) “everything”. They a “Hermes here. The Greek god - / Don’t put down the book - / I’m talking to you. If the lines looks like poetry, / relax. This book is shorter than it looks.” He may be the god of liars and thieves, but here's one moment when Hermes is telling the truth. Funny story. I remember working as a children’s librarian in New York City when, one day, I got “that kid”. Librarians, you may have had “that kid” in your rooms as well at some point. It’s the kid that has read (their words) “everything”. They are fairly certain that you will fail to impress them, so, naturally, you bend over backwards to do so. They want good books, nothing but the best, and if you mention something they've already read they are allowed to look upon you, not with scorn, but with pity. In this particular case (and it was about a decade ago) I found that Diana Wynne Jones took care of the problem nicely (they’d never heard of her) but I think about that kid periodically over the years. And when I encounter a book that is of high literary quality, they sometimes come to mind. Yet the thing about Amber and Clay, by Newbery Award winner Laura Amy Schlitz, is that while it would have been the perfect story to hand over, it isn’t just for “that kid” at all. A verse novel at its core, this is a book for those Percy Jackson fans. For the kids that like their fiction realistic, but don’t mind the occasional Greek God butting in for effect. For kids that like historical fiction with loads of accurate details (you’ll never forget what a strigil is). For kids that like verse novels, since they look so impressive and read so much more quickly than you might expect. This is a book positioned to impress, that then sneaks over and steals your heart. Hermes would be proud. Two children find their fates linked, but not at the beginning. On the one hand you have Rhaskos, born a Thracian slave in Greece circa 400 BCE. His mother loves him, but too soon she’s sold away. Now his only comfort comes in drawing horses in the dirt, and what good would that do him? On the other hand you have Melisto, born wealthy and privileged, but with a mother who hates her and a father that’s often gone. When she is selected to be one of the special daughters of noblemen who will be a bear for the goddess Artemis at Brauron she finds a happiness she’d never encountered before. Rhaskos loves horses and Melisto comes to love a bear, but things change for both of them, and along with the philosopher Sokrates, their lives will soon be impossible to separate. You can admire a book’s writing, but not love its characters. This, while unfortunate, happens when an author is being too clever by half. Yet what I found with this Laura Amy Schlitz novel was that embedded deep in the text was one of the smartest methods I've seen an author use to connect an audience to characters. At the outset are the obvious narrative techniques (parceling out information about the past (exposition) is much easier when you've a god to do the dirty work). And then there are the risks. If you should find yourself simultaneously attracted and repulsed by elements of this book, I shouldn’t think that was a coincidence. As I read it, I was very much taken by the ways in which Schlitz continuously pushes and pulls at the reader. Consider how you first encounter the story. The very first thing you see (after the cast of characters, of course) is “Exhibit 1” It's a fragment of a broken pot, much as you might see in a museum. Indeed the description of this object is contemporary, speculating on its creator. Then you are drawn closer by the charm of Hermes himself. He tells you a story. Then you are Melos, being addressed by Rhaskos. Could anything be more intimate? You are one of the central characters of the book, hearing the story from the other main character’s point of view. Do you see how the book takes you away initially and then pulls you in? The moments where you see the past as merely a series of objects distances you. Then you’re pulled into the first person again. Away and in. Away and in. And in this motion of away and near Ms. Schlitz draws you closer and closer to the characters’ hearts. Did I happen to mention that she's also writing all this in verse? Blank verse and strophe-antistrophe (or, as she prefers to call it, turn-counterturn). There’s some datylic hexameter, elegiac couplets, and even a character speaking in hendecasyllables. But always the form matches the personality of the character that wields it. These choices, rendered in a book for kids, should distance you, yet you’re only more interested in the hearts and minds of the people you have come to know. Why you come to a Laura Amy Schlitz book is your business. Me? I come for the writing. More specifically I come for the descriptive writing. Some choice examples: • Upon discussing Greece: “it’s not a land / that feels that it owes you a living. The soil / is laced with acid and iron. The country / has always been poor.” • “Plague is disgusting / and tedious, too.” (I really felt that one this year) • “If he couldn’t win, / he was like a drunkard without drink.” (hmmm. That one too.) • “She knew her mother was an attractive woman, but there was something feral about Lysandra’s grace, something that reminded her of a weasel she had once watched kill a snake.” • Of the bear, “Whatever it felt, it felt with every cell in its body. There was no moderation and no fraud.” • “You must have seen what I saw that day - / stone that glows like honey through cream.” • “He stood like a statue, not weeping. / I know what it is not to cry.” • And even the child that is convinced that they know everything that has ever been written about the Greek gods may find that Ms. Schlitz writes little elements you never thought through before. Lines like “Artemis, the only Olympian goddess who had ever been a little girl” can catch you by surprise. Indeed any author who casually throws out a line like “O, the wine-dark sea!” is working with some references (eat your heart out, Iliad). A look at the Bibliography shows a whopping forty-three sources. Surely these became useful in the course of things. If nothing else, they may have inspired the different ways in which the book is written. I don’t even know all the poetic forms Ms. Schlitz is working with here. There’s a section where Rhaskos has created a very decent clay pig. The text bounces between his thoughts and those of Hephaistos, who is rather charmed by the boy’s accomplishment. Many of the lines in the Hephaistos section (“the pig is good”, “Like Prometheus…”, “a world from clay”) are repeated, after a fashion, in the Rhaskos part (“… the animals were good”, “I felt like Prometheus…”, “who made mankind from clay…”). Does it mean something? Hmmm. In her Author’s Note at the back, Schlitz makes it clear that she cannot correct the sins of the past. We see today the horrors of slavery, no matter the era, but in this book even the kindest most intelligent man there doesn’t critique it. Schlitz notes that she couldn’t put words in Sokrates’s mouth on the matter. Indeed, even Rhaskos mentions early on in the text, “He didn’t know how bitter it is to be a slave. / He couldn’t see that it was wrong / that I was a slave. He was the wisest man in Athens, but he couldn’t see that I’d been wronged.” Rhaskos can see the problem with his time period and say that it’s wrong because it affects him directly. What about when there are moments when Rhaskos himself is in the wrong? Every historical character is a product of their age. To what extent do you allow them to discuss their own prejudices? Generally speaking Schlitz keeps Rhaskos on a tight leash, but once in a while he falls prey to the era. He calls the men that use a less respected gymnasium, “Foreigners and half breeds, metics, human mongrels,” only to find the wisest man in Athens there having scintillating conversations with them. We cannot escape our age. We can only hope to dodge it a little. Mind you, this is not the only time Rhaskos is unlikable. Indeed, Schlitz takes a chance on making him downright nasty for a while. When he first goes to work for the potter Phaistus he’s awful to both him and his wife Zosima. The risk here is evident. Should the reader turn on Rhaskos for his behavior, they will not want to read the book any further. Thankfully, Rhaskos is written in the kind of first person narrative that manages to be understandable but not sympathetic. And maybe some folks will find him too much of an adolescent, but at least you’ve been with him a long time before these sections. You want to see him come through it all in one piece. I’m a children’s librarian by training so I cannot read a book like Amber and Clay and not pair it with books already in my library. Indeed, as I read, the connections started to come faster and faster. Let’s see, let’s see . . . obviously with Hermes starting the story in the way that he does you’d want to make sure a kid was up on his “Olympians” series of graphic novels by George O’Connor (particularly any pertaining to Hephaistos and Hermes). And why not throw in I Am Hermes by Mordecai Gerstein for spice? It may read young but the info is good. The overall realism of the text of Amber and Clay (with the exception of the occasional god popping up here and there in the chorus) brought to mind the Newbery Honor book The Winged Girl of Knossos (a gender swapped and researched retelling of the Icarus myth). Next you have the fact that much of this story is about a boy who works for a potter and there is a distinct possibility that the apprentice may be remembered long beyond the master. Sounds like A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, yes? And the bear? The bear that Melisto comes to love? If that bear does have at least a little kinship to the bear in Frances Hardinge’s A Skinful of Shadows then I don’t know my job. Recently I’ve been trying to put a name on that feeling I sometimes get when I’m reading a book for kids and become suddenly overwhelmed with this sense of relief that the writing is as good as it is. Is there a word for that? Probably in some language out there. I can’t guarantee to you that you’ll have the same feeling, but I can say that while this book may look intimidating, and many of the words I’ve written here may make it out to be some kind of lofty, classical text, this is just a plain good story. A boy. A girl. Horses and bears. Philosophy but the kind you actually want to read more of. Bullies. Lightning strikes. Ghosts and death and daimons. Read it aloud or hand it to a young reader. Whatever you choose to do, find it a home. There really has never been and may never be a book quite like it again. For ages 10-14.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    I'm dithering between 4 and 5 stars. I am at a loss for words: this verse novel for the middle-school set grabbed me and won't let go. I don't think I can write a coherent review. I loved our two main human characters: Rhaskos, an enslaved boy of Thracian heritage, and Melito, an aristocratic girl living in Athens. I loved the author's use of the Greek gods as narrators. Hermes was a delight. I loved the writing--the poetry was so varied, so clever, so easy to gulp down. It flowed so effortlessly f I'm dithering between 4 and 5 stars. I am at a loss for words: this verse novel for the middle-school set grabbed me and won't let go. I don't think I can write a coherent review. I loved our two main human characters: Rhaskos, an enslaved boy of Thracian heritage, and Melito, an aristocratic girl living in Athens. I loved the author's use of the Greek gods as narrators. Hermes was a delight. I loved the writing--the poetry was so varied, so clever, so easy to gulp down. It flowed so effortlessly for this reader. The setting is Greece, c. 400 BCE. The author did not romanticize the country's history; she gave us warts to go with the ancient glories. Best of all, I loved the exhibits--'relics' from that era, described as modern-era museum pieces; each chosen to illustrate a particular section of the story. The reader knows the answers that the museum writers could only guess at. Highly recommended for all lovers of intelligently written historical fiction.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Faith Hough

    Incredibly good. Still processing, but will review soon!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Amber and Clay is the story of two children who are very different and who have very different life experiences and yet who join together to try to accomplish a common goal. Amber is a wild girl, reckless, undisciplined, plain, the child of a rich man, a child unloved by her mother. Clay is a quiet boy, the son of an enslaved woman, thoughtful though untaught, clever though unschooled, interested in drawing horses. The story takes place in ancient Greece and the other characters include a philos Amber and Clay is the story of two children who are very different and who have very different life experiences and yet who join together to try to accomplish a common goal. Amber is a wild girl, reckless, undisciplined, plain, the child of a rich man, a child unloved by her mother. Clay is a quiet boy, the son of an enslaved woman, thoughtful though untaught, clever though unschooled, interested in drawing horses. The story takes place in ancient Greece and the other characters include a philosopher, a bear, and some of the gods. You can't help but be amazed at this book, with its beautiful structure of beginning chapters with an artifact of ancient Greece, found in the present day, an artifact that is closely tied to the plot. The characters are all vivid and completely unique, and the author bravely allows them to experience the full repercussions of their actions, some of which is heartbreaking. Author Laura Amy Schlitz uses timeless poetic forms to tell the story, and, again, that is an achievement that the reader can't help but admire. The lives of these two children are fascinating to watch as the story unfolds. A brilliant book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    One of the coolest things about this novel is that it could potentially be real. A lot of research went into this novel, as shown by the 5 page bibliography in the back. It would be amazing if maybe, just maybe, Laura Amy Schlitz got it right. It took a long time to get into this story because there's a lot going on. I appreciated the cast list in the beginning and I think having a map would have helped also. This story is told from multiple POVs and in multiple ways, from free verse to novel fo One of the coolest things about this novel is that it could potentially be real. A lot of research went into this novel, as shown by the 5 page bibliography in the back. It would be amazing if maybe, just maybe, Laura Amy Schlitz got it right. It took a long time to get into this story because there's a lot going on. I appreciated the cast list in the beginning and I think having a map would have helped also. This story is told from multiple POVs and in multiple ways, from free verse to novel format. 'Amber and Clay' mainly follows two children; Rhaskos and Melisto. Rhaskos is born a slave and works for a variety of cruel to kindly masters. Melisto is the daughter of a well off man and sent to be a Bear or follower of Artemis. By a weird twist of Fate, and it can be called nothing other than Fate, the two's destinies are entwined. I think it's necessary to have a fundamental knowledge of Ancient Greece to help with this. There's a lot of politics and social standing etiquette going on that can feel abrasive at first, but this is truly what happened at these points in history. I loved the artifacts included in the story also; I legitimately thought they were real (turns out they are not!) and they really added a level of 'realism' to the story. Dear Gods, do I wish this was a true tale. This story does grab you and pulls you into this incredible narrative. It's so artfully woven a tapestry and I adored it!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I love Greek mythology and this middle grade book was right up my alley. The author was skillful at weaving several stories together and I was thrilled with the way she inserted great lessons in every chapter. (This old lady learned about Greek art, artifacts and language in a painless way.) I was also relieved to find that the author wasn't tempted to make Amber and Clay into a cheesy romantic tale. She raises serious issues about slavery and abuse. She introduces Socrates to a new generation a I love Greek mythology and this middle grade book was right up my alley. The author was skillful at weaving several stories together and I was thrilled with the way she inserted great lessons in every chapter. (This old lady learned about Greek art, artifacts and language in a painless way.) I was also relieved to find that the author wasn't tempted to make Amber and Clay into a cheesy romantic tale. She raises serious issues about slavery and abuse. She introduces Socrates to a new generation and allows young people to debate what makes a meaningful life, and she adds humor via the voice of the messenger god, Hermes. FUN, stimulating read!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nope Sauce

    Got this book as an ARC, so here we go. AMAZING!(Except for that 30-page section where I missed paragraphs instead of poetry) Amber and clay is written in (mainly) 2 parts, free-form poetry and your stereotypical book book. The other thing that made it interesting was the fact that it wasn't just told from the 2 main characters, it was told from the POVs of many people. Great prose as well, I liked reading and being able to tell when the character switch happens. So let's set the stage: Rhaskos, a Got this book as an ARC, so here we go. AMAZING!(Except for that 30-page section where I missed paragraphs instead of poetry) Amber and clay is written in (mainly) 2 parts, free-form poetry and your stereotypical book book. The other thing that made it interesting was the fact that it wasn't just told from the 2 main characters, it was told from the POVs of many people. Great prose as well, I liked reading and being able to tell when the character switch happens. So let's set the stage: Rhaskos, a slave born a "barbaric" island. He loves horses and craftsmanship. Melisto is a "wild child", always running around, asking questions, and is generally unloved by her mom. Her father, a rich man, is the world to Melisto. Rhaskos's mother, a slave called Thratta is Melisto's primary caretaker and mother figure. Melistos and Rhaskos must work together to fufill a promise made by Melisto's mother and a curse by Thratta. This book is about a friendship that breaks the lines of stereotypes, limits, and class. I honestly think this book is something we need, *gestures to the state of the earth a.k.a the racial-social-disease afflicted-economic issues right now.*. This book is not about confining ourselves to who we were born as, it is about the human we build ourselves up to be. If you like historical fiction, Barack Obamas books, thinking about random crap in the shower, or just a friendship that breaks all society boundaries possible, then you are going to like this book

  8. 4 out of 5

    。˚↞₊❀ ᑕᗩᗰIᒪᒪᗩ ❀₊↠˚。

    TOTAL - ★★★★☆ Amber and Clay was overall a very intriguing, well-written, destined-to-be-a-classic novel. I learned so much about ancient Greek culture, yet it still managed to be fun - I finished it in two days! _____ Plot - ★★★★★ To some readers, it may seem like the plot jumps around a lot or there's a lot going on, but I really didn't get that. The story all seemed to flow quite nicely, even though there are several supporting characters who tell the story at points. This really just contributes TOTAL - ★★★★☆ Amber and Clay was overall a very intriguing, well-written, destined-to-be-a-classic novel. I learned so much about ancient Greek culture, yet it still managed to be fun - I finished it in two days! _____ Plot - ★★★★★ To some readers, it may seem like the plot jumps around a lot or there's a lot going on, but I really didn't get that. The story all seemed to flow quite nicely, even though there are several supporting characters who tell the story at points. This really just contributes to the charm for me. And the plot twists that I expected, yet I didn't really expect. You wouldn't kill off a main character - would you?! And yet . . . *smirks* (view spoiler)[And why did Melisto then have to leave after she'd "done her work"? That stuff always kills me in books. 😭 (hide spoiler)] Writing - ★★★★★ The writing always hit the maturity level of the characters, even though I never was quite sure how old they were. It majestically captured the beautiful, yet terrible world of Ancient Greece. Characters - ★★★★★ They had their faults. They weren't perfect. But Rhaskos and Melisto were great characters. You would've thought that because Melisto was spoiled, she'd be a whiny brat, but nope! It makes her all the more relatable. And despite being a slave, Rhaskos always keeps that spark. Hermes was annoying, but what do you expect? He's a god. (This is the same across the board for all Greek mythology I've read, funnily enough.) Creativity - ★★★★★ I love how Schlitz took creative liberty in the world she wrote. No one knows exactly what took Ancient Greece was like, but the world created seemed so effortless and realistic. Cleanness - ★★☆☆☆ There was a lot of foul language, along with sexual references. I am confused as to why this book is marked as middle grade. It should be young adult, or even adult; in consideration of how maturely it is written. Conclusion A very well done book. If it had not had certain content, it would have earned five stars from me, but I feel that it was necessary to show how cruel the world could be.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz is a MASTERPIECE. . . . Every aspect of the book is brilliantly constructed, deeply researched, and smart. Melisto’s sections are mostly in prose, while Rhaskos’ parts are all in free verse. Various gods weigh in and even Sokrates makes a lengthy appearance toward the end. Themes include self determination, destiny, and friendship. Highly recommended! . . . Amber & Clay is narrated by the gods and interspersed with exhibits of imaginary archaeological treasures that com Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz is a MASTERPIECE. . . . Every aspect of the book is brilliantly constructed, deeply researched, and smart. Melisto’s sections are mostly in prose, while Rhaskos’ parts are all in free verse. Various gods weigh in and even Sokrates makes a lengthy appearance toward the end. Themes include self determination, destiny, and friendship. Highly recommended! . . . Amber & Clay is narrated by the gods and interspersed with exhibits of imaginary archaeological treasures that complement the story. The story alternates between two individuals entwined by fate: Rhaskos, an enslaved Thracian boy, and Melistos, a wealthy Athenian girl. . . . Rhaskos works in the stables picking up horse dung. His mother, Thratta, loves him, but is taken from him when he is little and sold far away to be a nursemaid to Melisto. Rhaskos has artistic talent, but little opportunity until he is sold to a new owner. . . . Melisto lives in a large house where she is beloved by her father, but begrudged by her mother. She is forced to learn to weave when she would rather run free outside. When she is chosen to spend a season serving Artemis, goddess of the hunt, as one of her little bears, she is afforded the freedom she always desired, but it cannot last. Melisto is killed by lightning and bound by Thratta to Rhaskos with the mission of helping him achieve freedom. The two finally meet in an unlikely friendship that transcends even death. . . . #middleschoollibrarian #middleschoollibrary #library #librarian #futurereadylibs #iteachlibrary #bookstagrammer #bookstagram #librariesofinstagram #librariansofinstagram #librariesfollowlibraries #librarylife #librarianlife #schoollibrarian #middlegrade #middlegradebooks #iteach #librarylove #booksbooksbooks #amreading #bibliophile #schoollibrariansrock #bookreview #bookrecommendation #igreads #malibrary #msla #amberandclay . . . [image ID: Laura holds a brand new copy of Amber and Clay near the novel in verse section of the DMS library.]

  10. 5 out of 5

    Johanna Burton

    Rhaskos is a Thracian slave living in Greece. When his mother is sold away from him he is left alone in a cruel world. Eventually he ends up in Athens where he meets the philosopher Socrates who opens up his eyes to see life in a way Rhaskos never thought possible because of his status. Melisto is the only child of a rich aristocrat, destined to marry a highborn man. But first she must spend a season in Brauron, serving the goddess Artemis as a Bear. The children's lives eventually collide, but Rhaskos is a Thracian slave living in Greece. When his mother is sold away from him he is left alone in a cruel world. Eventually he ends up in Athens where he meets the philosopher Socrates who opens up his eyes to see life in a way Rhaskos never thought possible because of his status. Melisto is the only child of a rich aristocrat, destined to marry a highborn man. But first she must spend a season in Brauron, serving the goddess Artemis as a Bear. The children's lives eventually collide, but not in the way anyone expected... As I read this book I was struck by how honest it was. Even though this was a middle grade novel it never shied away from the realities of life in Ancient Greece. Things like slavery and the treatment of woman were displayed so vividly and that's a big part of why this has to be the best book I've ever read set in the ancient world. But, even though this book exposes you to the harsh realities of life, it was balanced so well with snippets from the gods which were hilarious (especially Hermes) and the beauty of Melisto's time serving the goddess Artemis. Another thing I loved was the plot and how this book blended so many different styles of writing but never failed to remain even. A huge benefit of having all the different styles made it so that every character had a voice, but everyone's voice was unique and I thought that was so cool! I really enjoyed the artifacts which were at the beginning of each chapter and had a lot of fun guessing what the chapter would be about based on what the object was. The characters were fantastic as well. I grew so attached to Rhaskos and I loved watching his journey of self-discovery. I think his story was especially powerful because his whole life he'd been told that he was nothing but then he discovered that his life did hold meaning and that he had gifts which made him so much more than the worthless boy everyone had told him he was. Melisto's part in the story was not what I was expecting but it really made everything come together. I kept wondering when the two were going to meet and that also ended up being in a way that I never expected but which was so, so good. Overall an amazing book which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys books set in the ancient world. I have read a lot of those kinds of books but Amber and Clay definitely tops them all. Thank you to Laura Amy Schlitz for this amazing gift of a story, it is so beautiful and I loved it. Happy Reading :)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chaitra

    2.5 stars. It took me a long time to get through this. True, I was reading other books in between, but also, I didn't much feel like reading it during the times I wasn't reading other books. I found it interesting enough, and the verse parts don't bother me, because I agree with Hermes - it means the book is not as long as you think it is. But even then, it dragged. Part of it is Rhaskos. I liked Melisto more than I did Rhaskos, because something about Melisto sparkled. It's weird, because outsi 2.5 stars. It took me a long time to get through this. True, I was reading other books in between, but also, I didn't much feel like reading it during the times I wasn't reading other books. I found it interesting enough, and the verse parts don't bother me, because I agree with Hermes - it means the book is not as long as you think it is. But even then, it dragged. Part of it is Rhaskos. I liked Melisto more than I did Rhaskos, because something about Melisto sparkled. It's weird, because outside of the section on Brauron and the bear, nothing in Melisto's story is as interesting as Rhaskos' narrative. I just liked her more. I spent a lot of time waiting for her storyline to connect with Rhaskos' and it does happen, but the blurb lied. It doesn't happen until the end. By then I was finishing it just because I had wasted too much time on it already. I loved the concept, and even the execution. Maybe it just took a long time for the payoff - I don't know. I just wasn't enamored with it the way I expected to when I first opened the book and saw Hermes breaking the fourth wall speaking in verse. It's also slightly above the middle grade level it's marketed at (my child is seven and I read some middle grade books for him, but I wouldn't read this one for a good long while).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shella

    This is an excellent book with many distinguished qualities. I would put it more in the YA category and therefore not put it eligible for a Newbery. I think only a few authors could pull off writing a story that mixes fantasy, mythology, poetry and historical fiction. The audio narration was fantastic. I thought the transitions between points of view and inclusion or artifacts were done very well. The depiction of Socrates could not have been better. Other reviewers have described the gods and g This is an excellent book with many distinguished qualities. I would put it more in the YA category and therefore not put it eligible for a Newbery. I think only a few authors could pull off writing a story that mixes fantasy, mythology, poetry and historical fiction. The audio narration was fantastic. I thought the transitions between points of view and inclusion or artifacts were done very well. The depiction of Socrates could not have been better. Other reviewers have described the gods and goddesses as snarky- perfect word choice. If a student can stay with this book, they would learn valuable information about daily life of various social stations in Greece during this time period. I’m thrilled there is a fantastic book for this historical time period- just think it will be way above most of my students’ abilities for younger middle school. Hoping awards for YA books will take on this title.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tamsyn

    What an unusual, enjoyable book. It combined many aspects of Ancient Greece: a look at the lives of an enslaved boy, Rhaskos, a girl, Melisto, born into a house of privilege in Athens, his story told in verse, hers in prose, commentary and narration by a few different Greek gods, interactions with Sokrates and his philosophy, trial, and death, and the process of making pottery in this time, among others. One of the most distinguishing and interesting parts of this story is the use of Exhibits of What an unusual, enjoyable book. It combined many aspects of Ancient Greece: a look at the lives of an enslaved boy, Rhaskos, a girl, Melisto, born into a house of privilege in Athens, his story told in verse, hers in prose, commentary and narration by a few different Greek gods, interactions with Sokrates and his philosophy, trial, and death, and the process of making pottery in this time, among others. One of the most distinguishing and interesting parts of this story is the use of Exhibits of a variety of different archeological finds: pottery, jewelry, tablets containing records, etc., interspersed throughout the book. Each one is pictured and described, and then incorporated naturally into the next chapter. A very satisfying story, and a beautiful cover.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Roanna25

    I have no idea what age group this was geared towards cause it really wasn't a middle-grade or YA book. Good. But long and not a whole lot happened. I have no idea what age group this was geared towards cause it really wasn't a middle-grade or YA book. Good. But long and not a whole lot happened.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth (Enthralled by the Written Word)

    Ancient Greece has always been a favorite of mine. This...was incredible.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Griffin

    Very good! I truly enjoyed this book. This book is told some in a normal way and some told in verse. And some illustrations with a inscription of items .

  17. 5 out of 5

    Murray

    Schlitz strikes literary gold again with this imaginative story of two young children, one a Thracian boy, Rhaskos, who is slave and a Greek girl, Melisto, whose family is part of Athenian aristocracy. They end up being initially connected by Rhaskos mother, who is sold to Melisto's family. Rhaskos tells of trials and tribulations in verse and Melisto her story in prose. Four of the Greek Gods add their two cents throughout as well. Each chapter starts will an illustration of an artifact(s) and Schlitz strikes literary gold again with this imaginative story of two young children, one a Thracian boy, Rhaskos, who is slave and a Greek girl, Melisto, whose family is part of Athenian aristocracy. They end up being initially connected by Rhaskos mother, who is sold to Melisto's family. Rhaskos tells of trials and tribulations in verse and Melisto her story in prose. Four of the Greek Gods add their two cents throughout as well. Each chapter starts will an illustration of an artifact(s) and its probable origin and then it is used in the chapter. There are fantasy elements because of the Gods, but Schlitz really tries to look at ancient Greece day to day life from two perspectives. The two characters become literally bound together with a nice twist two-thirds of the way through the novel, and Socrates is also a character in this story as well. This book is really aimed at Tweens 12-14, who really don't need to know Greek history or Greek mythology to enjoy this, but might be more intrigued if they did. This book will definitately be on the best of children's fiction book lists of 2021.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Barb Middleton

    Well-written but I couldn’t think of one student I’d recommend it to. It’s dark humor and mix with Greek mythology is unique.

  19. 5 out of 5

    mad mags

    (Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Edelweiss and Library Thing's Early Reviewers program. Content warning for child abuse, animal abuse, and sexual assault.) The children I spoke of before were like that. They weren’t alike, but they fit together, like lock and key. The boy, Rhaskos, was a slave boy. Unlucky at first. A Thracian boy—(Thrace is north of Greece) —redheaded, nervy, neglected. A clever boy who was taught he was stupid. A beautiful boy whose mother scarred him (Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Edelweiss and Library Thing's Early Reviewers program. Content warning for child abuse, animal abuse, and sexual assault.) The children I spoke of before were like that. They weren’t alike, but they fit together, like lock and key. The boy, Rhaskos, was a slave boy. Unlucky at first. A Thracian boy—(Thrace is north of Greece) —redheaded, nervy, neglected. A clever boy who was taught he was stupid. A beautiful boy whose mother scarred him with a knife. The girl, Melisto, started life lucky. A rich man’s daughter, and a proper Greek. Owl-eyed Melisto: a born fighter, prone to tantrums, hating the loom. A wild girl, chosen by Artemis, and lucky, as I said before— except for one thing: she died young. This is their story. When it's over, if you like, you can tell me what it means. "I want to tell you the things I never told anyone, in case this is my last chance. When I was alive, I didn’t talk much. So much of what I felt was a secret. I think that’s what I loved about the bear. Neither of us had any words." Again we walked and talked. I never talked to anyone like that. No one ever talked like that to me. I talk to you still, Melisto. I’ve been talking to you ever since. The red-haired boy variously known as Rhaskos, Thrax, and Pyrrhos is many things, though few of his masters care to know. He's Thracian nobility, with the scars to prove it - and also a slave, belonging to the wealthy Alexidemus and his soldier son Menon in Thessaly, and then to a humble potter named Phaistus in Athens. He loves horses and is as adept at handling them as he will one day become at drawing and sculpting them. He is a contemporary and friend of Sokrates, though he is powerless to stop his execution. He is an orphan, with a dolphin for a mother; a mother who loves him so fiercely that she curses a ghost to help set him free. He is like clay: common at first glance, but also not; capable of transmuting into creations lovely, clever, and full of value. The owl-eyed girl called Melisto is seemingly as lucky as Rhaskos is not: the only child of a wealthy Athenian, Melisto wants for nothing. But she is a wild (read: untamed) girl child in a rigidly gendered society that has already predetermined Melisto's future for her: marriage, motherhood, a life of quiet domesticity. When, at the age of ten, Melisto is chosen to serve the goddess Athena as a Little Bear, her life opens up before her at Brauron; this is who she was meant to be. Like all good things, it cannot last. Rhaskos and Melisto's destinies collide when Melisto frees a bear cub that is to be sacrificed to Athena. Or maybe their paths met even earlier, when Meda/Thratta was ripped from her toddler son. Perhaps the gods nudged them towards each other from birth. Alternately, the gods have nothing to do with it. Who can say? (Hermes, maybe. He has a lot to say and loves to hear himself talk!) AMBER AND CLAY is ... not what I expected. Normally I'd steer clear of a contemporary (or any!) book styled after the ancient, epic poems (I positively labored through THE ODYSSEY and THE ILIAD in high school!), but the visual element sucked me in. I was under the (mistaken!) impression that AMBER AND CLAY would be heavier in illustrations than it actually is, almost as though part graphic novel. As it turns out, the illustrations - of archaeological artifacts - are a little sparser than I hoped, but they tie into the narrative quite nicely and add another layer of wonder and surprise to the story. The "exhibits" are really well done and do not disappoint. Additionally, the synopsis had me thinking that this would be a supernatural romance; and while AMBER AND CLAY is indeed a love story, Rhaskos and Melisto are entirely too young to hook up, even by the time they finally meet near the story's end. (It's hard not to envision them - especially Rhaskos - as older than they are, both because the story seemingly stretching across years, and so much happens to these crazy kids to last several lifetimes.) Instead, this is a different kind of love story: AMBER AND CLAY tells of the love between a mother and her son; a father and his daughter; a teacher and his students; a girl and a bear; a ghost and her tether to the earth. And despite my reservations about those epic poems, Schlitz both honors the form and breathes new life into it. While Melisto tells her story in prose, Rhaskos speaks in verse; and the gods sometimes address us commoners in turn-counterturn, occasionally using more complicated linguistic techniques like elegian couplets (which I barely recollect from HS English). This all sounds incredibly tricky and complicated (and undoubtedly is), but Schlitz pulls it off without a hitch. AMBER AND CLAY is fun and engaging, with a surprising sense of humor and expert sense of dramatic flair. “Oh, Phaistus, look at his hair! He’ll be beautiful once he’s healed. We’ll call him Pyrrhos!” As if I were a dog. Pyrrhos means fiery. Half the red-haired slaves in Athens are called Pyrrhos. It is, dare I say, exceedingly readable. Honestly, I let out a little groan when I saw the "Cast of Characters" on page one, complete with various households and multiple monikers for the same people; but the story, the characters, their relationships to one another - all are easy enough to follow. Schlitz's characters, both those based on historical figures and those spun from imagination and whimsy, are so full of life that they practically jump off the page. Rhaskos and Melisto; Meda and Lysandra; Phaistus and Zosima; Menon and Lykos; and, of course, Sokrates. Likewise, her descriptions of Greek life and customs left me hungering to learn more. Naturally, the most fascinating custom - that of the Little Bears of Brauron - is also that which we know the least about. The scenes featuring Melisto and the bear cub are among my favorite in the book. In a story filled with animal sacrifice, this little slice of compassion and respect is life-affirming; to wit: It turned in slow circles and collapsed with its rump pressed against her thigh. Melisto put one hand on it. It seemed to her that she had never touched anything more real than the bear cub. For a moment her mind slipped back into the past. She recalled the bruises she had carried from her mother’s pinches, and the sore patches on her scalp from Lysandra’s hair-pulling. She remembered the loathing in her mother’s face that struck terror into her soul. She had never been afraid of the bear like that. and On the nights when she waded into the bay and watched the moon, she was barely conscious of the fact that it was she who saw, and the moon that was being watched. In the same way, she did not measure how much she loved the bear. She was the bear. Likewise, Rhaskos's interactions with Grau/Phoibe are so wonderfully tender, my heart aches just to think back on them. From the moment he renames her (grau means hag) - a change of name that's much more respectful than those Rhaskos was forced to accept - Rhaskos treats his donkey charge with decency and kindness. The same kindness that he himself longs for. Animals know when things get better. People might not know, but animals do. That very first day, Grau knew I was going to be good to her and I swear to you, she was glad. Cue the "what is this salty discharge" gifs. AMBER AND CLAY is such a beautiful story, and I'm glad I took a chance on it. Iambic pentameter be damned.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This piece originally appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books: The god Hermes draws readers into “the tale of a girl as precious as amber, / the tale of a boy as common as clay” as he introduces Melisto, a pampered girl in Athens, and Rhaskos, a Thracian slave in Amber & Clay (2021) by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Julia Iredale. Find it on Bookshop. Although close in age, the two “weren’t alike, but they fit together, / like lock and key.” In normal circumstances, they would ne This piece originally appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books: The god Hermes draws readers into “the tale of a girl as precious as amber, / the tale of a boy as common as clay” as he introduces Melisto, a pampered girl in Athens, and Rhaskos, a Thracian slave in Amber & Clay (2021) by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Julia Iredale. Find it on Bookshop. Although close in age, the two “weren’t alike, but they fit together, / like lock and key.” In normal circumstances, they would never meet, but what is ever normal when the gods are watching? Their stories begin when both are young children. In segments of verse, Rhaskos remembers his early years as a slave up to the night his mother tattoos him in the Thracian tradition, only to be sold before she can explain the markings to him. Renamed Thratta, Rhaskos’ mother joins Melisto’s household, where she is meant to tend the little girl and ease some of the child’s wildness. While Rhaskos misses his mother and treasures small moments of beauty observing the horses in his master’s stables in Thessaly, Melisto has her own struggles in Athens. Her mother resents Melisto’s disobedience and willfulness. She also fears that she will “crack her skull / or black her eye, or shake her / so hard” that she will break her daughter’s neck. Rhaskos’ lyrical, carefully structured blank verse provides contrast with Melisto’s prose passages as the story weaves in voices from Hermes and Hephaistos to Athena and Artemis, among other members of the Greek pantheon. A comprehensive author’s note explains the creative choices Laura Amy Schlitz made in drawing from Greek history and embracing the strophe-antistrophe technique common in Greek plays — as seen in the “Turn and Counterturn” poems, where two characters share their different perspectives on parts of the plot. The book also includes a helpful cast of characters at the beginning. Archaeological images (illustrated by Julia Iredale) and exhibit-style captions add further dimension to this sprawling narrative. Artifacts that prove key to the story include an “unusually fine” amber gold necklace “found on the Athenian Akropolis, near the ruins of the Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia”; Rhaskos’ first pottery casting; and others. Everything changes for both children when Melisto is called on to serve as a Little Bear at the Sanctuary of Artemis in Brauron. As Hermes explains: “My point is: little is known. / What was meant to be a mystery / is still a mystery. / Except we’re going to lift the veil a little, / and peek. We’ll see Brauron / through Melisto’s eyes— / Melisto’s going to Brauron, / to serve as a Little Bear.” At the sanctuary, Melisto enjoys unprecedented freedom, allowing her to explore nature, indulge her wildness, and finally thrive as she begins tending a bear cub reserved for a future sacrifice to honor Artemis. Back in Thessaly, Rhaskos’ world becomes even smaller under his abusive new master, Menon, inspiring Hephaistos, the god of fire, metalworking, and masonry, to form a plan to intervene on Rhaskos’ behalf to “send my boy to Athens / and wrest him away from Menon.” While Melisto decides to honor what she knows is right at Brauron despite Artemis’ supposed wishes, and Rhaskos dreams of a life where he is free and able to make art, events are set in motion that will put the pair on a life-changing, utterly unexpected collision course. Schlitz’s ambitious standalone middle-grade story is meticulously researched and brings ancient Greece to life as Hermes instructs readers on the country’s proper name (“Don’t call it Greece”), and Rhaskos is shown Athenian attractions like the Trojan Horse and the Akropolis, where “the stones of the temples were bathed in gold” for the first time. What begins as a story about a spoiled girl and a common boy becomes, in the author’s capable hands, a much larger commentary on art, friendship, and identity as we watch Melisto and Rhaskos transform, becoming “the girl as electric as amber, the boy, indestructible as clay." Possible Pairings: The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz, Stone River Crossing by Tim Tingle

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    The Newbery-Medal winner brings us into the world of ancient Greece with her new novel. Rhaskos is a slave working in a Greek household where he spends his days picking up horse manure. He doesn’t mind the hard work, but he’d much rather be drawing the horses around him. He works in secret, steadily building his craft, inspired by a painting his master owns. Melisto is a girl hated by her mother, abused by her, but someone who has grown up used to wealth and luxury. She is precious, particularly The Newbery-Medal winner brings us into the world of ancient Greece with her new novel. Rhaskos is a slave working in a Greek household where he spends his days picking up horse manure. He doesn’t mind the hard work, but he’d much rather be drawing the horses around him. He works in secret, steadily building his craft, inspired by a painting his master owns. Melisto is a girl hated by her mother, abused by her, but someone who has grown up used to wealth and luxury. She is precious, particularly for the connections she will make when she marries. She is selected to serve the goddess Artemis for a year, living wild and free for the first time in her life. By the time our two protagonists meet, one of them has died, though their destinies are entwined with one another. Schlitz has created a masterpiece of a novel where she blends verse and prose, moving freely between the two. It is a complex novel with elements of Greek society explained, wars imminent and friendships being forged. Schlitz adds the voices of the god Hermes to the mix, also including the philosophical musings of Socrates who appears as himself in the novel. The book is marvelous, each of the elements working to support the whole and weaving together into a tantalizing tale that is surprising and fascinating. Schlitz’s writing is exceptional. She explores ancient Greece along its dusty paths and roadways, showing readers how it felt to be these characters in these times. She speaks as Hermes and Socrates in voices that are unique to them and feel perfectly suited. The question of the value of a life runs throughout the book along with looking closely at suffering and pain. These deep questions and philosophies are ideally suited to the world Schlitz has created. They are enhanced by the illustrations that show various Greek artifacts and explain what they were used for. Deep, dramatic and classical, this book is the best of historical fiction for children.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Munro's Kids

    I'm having a hard time putting words to how much I loved this book, because it truly feels like it was written for me specifically. The mix of deliciously detailed history and living mythology brings to life a time and place I already have a keen interest in. Like in The Hired Girl, Schlitz is invested in conveying an era's viewpoint, not just its trappings. She's playful too, punctuating the narrative with fictional (I think? Some are definitely based on real artifacts) pieces of material histo I'm having a hard time putting words to how much I loved this book, because it truly feels like it was written for me specifically. The mix of deliciously detailed history and living mythology brings to life a time and place I already have a keen interest in. Like in The Hired Girl, Schlitz is invested in conveying an era's viewpoint, not just its trappings. She's playful too, punctuating the narrative with fictional (I think? Some are definitely based on real artifacts) pieces of material history that connect to the characters (illustrated with both gravitas and charm by Julia Iredale). Meanwhile the gods speak to us directly, snide and amusing and maddeningly removed from the reader's own emotional connection with the characters. I don't usually "get" novels in verse, but the verse sections in Amber and Clay flow so beautifully that the choice really feels justified. Schlitz's endnotes detailing her poetic choices are really interesting, and are accompanied by plenty more excellent notes on her historical sources and perspective. I could go on about how clever I think Schlitz is for using a mixed media approach to giving voice to those that are silenced in the written historical record, but I've probably gushed too much as is. My criticisms, as they are, are that I think the secondary protagonist fades too much from the narrative in the second half - I think she should have been given a couple more places to speak out. I also think the lack of endnotes, either by Schlitz or Iredale, about the illustrated artifacts is a shame. I would love to know what pieces they were based on and the thoughts that went into picking them out! Now my only challenge is to figure out how to depersonalize my reaction to this book enough to effectively recommend it to others! -Angela

  23. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    This was a well written, there's no doubt. The use of language is excellent. It makes good use of the different voices/narrators, as well as the mix of verse, prose, and historical artifact. I got the feeling that Schlitz did a ton of research--not just in service of the book but out of passion for the subject. I think her love shows through on every page. It's unique--unlike anything I've ever read before. It surprised me. It took me to another world. And I loved that Socrates was in it, thereb This was a well written, there's no doubt. The use of language is excellent. It makes good use of the different voices/narrators, as well as the mix of verse, prose, and historical artifact. I got the feeling that Schlitz did a ton of research--not just in service of the book but out of passion for the subject. I think her love shows through on every page. It's unique--unlike anything I've ever read before. It surprised me. It took me to another world. And I loved that Socrates was in it, thereby introducing readers to philosophy (the fun kind) and his approach to life and its questions. And the stories--they're good too. It's easy to invest in the characters and what happens to them. And yet, I kind of don't know what to make of it or how to categorize it. In part, it's because this is supposedly a book for children, but it seems too mature for children. Schlitz doesn't shy away from some of the realities of this world--the abuse of slaves, abuse of a mother who was "torn" by her daughter during childbirth, atrocities of war, among numerous other things. While, I can't fault the book for including historically accurate details, I know some parents and some children would not consider it appropriate. None of it is gentled for the younger reader. But it's more than that. The whole tone of the book seems more mature and maybe also more advanced. And then there's the length. It did start to lose me a couple of times as sections (Brauron, for instance) started to feel long. Overall, I think I would have to say it's an excellent book, but wonder about the likeability for kids. I will say that it planted an interest in and even hunger for Ancient Greece in me, and that is something.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Yes, I did finish it, all 500 pages! Yet now I wish it had not ended! It took a while to remember the characters' names and figure out, at least a little, where this story might be going. This is set in ancient Greece, a story told in prose about a young girl, Melisto, born into a wealthy family, and Rhaskos, a slave boy, who shares his own story in verse. Woven into these tales are other fascinating people, important to these two young people: a slave woman, Thratta; Sokrates, the philosopher; Yes, I did finish it, all 500 pages! Yet now I wish it had not ended! It took a while to remember the characters' names and figure out, at least a little, where this story might be going. This is set in ancient Greece, a story told in prose about a young girl, Melisto, born into a wealthy family, and Rhaskos, a slave boy, who shares his own story in verse. Woven into these tales are other fascinating people, important to these two young people: a slave woman, Thratta; Sokrates, the philosopher; Rhaskos' slave owners and of course the importance of various Greek gods. Hermes, son of Zeus, also appears once in a while, questioning and adding information. Chapters begin with found artifacts, all illustrated by Julia Iredale, each one central to the chapter. Laura Amy Schlitz explains more history and her choice of the written prose and poetry in added Author's Notes plus there is an extensive bibliography. The language is beautiful throughout. Schlitz does not hurry the story but takes time to show the emotions and the surroundings with deft description and emotion. Here is one tiny part in one scene, like many others: "The water foams and chuckles; their jars were overflowing. Soon dawn will daub the sky with finger paints, watercolor tints of saffron and rose; the women will sashay home, balancing their jars."The final question to lure you into this book is why is it titled Amver & Clay? (After finishing and during the reading, I returned to the beginning, an introduction first by Hermes, then Rhaskos speaks. I found returning to these pages and the list of the cast of characters helpful.) This is an amazing story and it publishes March 9th! Thanks to Candlewick Press for this advanced Copy!

  25. 4 out of 5

    SLoMoe

    I adored this book!! It was so creative and engaging. I learned of this book from a posting I read about potential Newbery winners. Ancient Greece from a distance never seems appealing to me, but then when I read a novel with the topic, I find myself enchanted by the storytelling. I think I might just be a fan of Ancient Greece. Laura Amy Schlitz has written a memorable book about a young slave, Rhaskos, as he grows up enslaved in Ancient Greece. Along the way there is a large cast of character I adored this book!! It was so creative and engaging. I learned of this book from a posting I read about potential Newbery winners. Ancient Greece from a distance never seems appealing to me, but then when I read a novel with the topic, I find myself enchanted by the storytelling. I think I might just be a fan of Ancient Greece. Laura Amy Schlitz has written a memorable book about a young slave, Rhaskos, as he grows up enslaved in Ancient Greece. Along the way there is a large cast of characters. Among the cast is Melisto. She is the daughter of a rich citizen, but, from a very young age, she doesn’t conform to the expectations of her mother and the behavioral norms of her society. As a reader we also follow her as she begins to mature and embrace her individuality while away from home and serving the goddess Artemis. Woven throughout the entire book is history about the gods and the life and times of Ancient Greece. The book sprinkles in ancient artifacts that are described for the modern audience. As the plot unfolds, the artifact is linked to the characters. It is a very clever way to draw the reader in and construct a world/life for these characters from just a few found pieces. The book also includes a helpful table of characters to reference while reading. I found it helpful for the first part of the book as I was getting acquainted with the characters. Additionally part of the book is written in verse and I found it to be the most natural reading experience of this format I have come across. I will recommend this book to friends and young adults (12+).

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aud

    I've never read a book quite like this one. Wendy Orr's books about ancient Greece (Dragonfly Song and so forth) are probably the closest comparison, but still very different. I loved it. I loved how inside of the culture you feel reading it: it's a very atmospheric book, with loads of tangible ambiance. It also doesn't pull many of it's punches, despite not being too graphic. Rhaskos' life as a slave is not pretty, and I think many girls will relate to Melisto's desire to escape the weaving roo I've never read a book quite like this one. Wendy Orr's books about ancient Greece (Dragonfly Song and so forth) are probably the closest comparison, but still very different. I loved it. I loved how inside of the culture you feel reading it: it's a very atmospheric book, with loads of tangible ambiance. It also doesn't pull many of it's punches, despite not being too graphic. Rhaskos' life as a slave is not pretty, and I think many girls will relate to Melisto's desire to escape the weaving room. The voices of the individual characters are distinct, as well, despite several of them being fairly nasty. I can't say that I loved the characters, but they all felt real - it was easy to see inside their heads and to understand their driving motivations, particularly with Rhaskos and Melisto. I also LOVED the inset pieces about the "ancient artifacts" - I was a history major with a classics minor in college, I adore this kind of stuff, and kid me would have loved it, too. The backmatter also elevates the book. Seeing how much thought and research went into making this one is impressive, and the historical details will appeal to kids who were history and classics geeks like me. I would hand this to older kids, ages 11 or 12+, as opposed to just strong younger readers, because I think it takes a bit more maturity to really appreciate. But for kids who can't get enough ancient history and who love to feel like they're inside the book, this is an excellent choice.

  27. 5 out of 5

    rainandcheese

    Wow I just love it when writers mimic classic text and make it less boring, familiar in age and feeling, and just delightful. Reading verses takes me forever but I realized now that listening to it is so much easier. Even so, reading it does add to the experience, when especially, this book throbs with such grief and longing every verse. The novel was always curious to explore the time and era it's set in and does not shy away in showing what came with it. I wasn't sold on it at first, being exh Wow I just love it when writers mimic classic text and make it less boring, familiar in age and feeling, and just delightful. Reading verses takes me forever but I realized now that listening to it is so much easier. Even so, reading it does add to the experience, when especially, this book throbs with such grief and longing every verse. The novel was always curious to explore the time and era it's set in and does not shy away in showing what came with it. I wasn't sold on it at first, being exhausted over reading about children suffering over gods and humans alike, not after when I just finished the entire Poppy War Trilogy. The book was wonderfully written, the author jumping from the amusing narration began by Hermes himself, the curious tones of Melisto, the times Rhaskos loved and was heartbroken over and over again, to the varied voices of men and women, their affections, hopes, and experiences filling me heavily. I got the feeling that this book was always grieving-- over lost children, over dead friends and ancient treasures, over injustices, and love left unsaid, and sure enough, a lot of regrets by the characters remain as secrets. It came though, for me, in the last two hours, and it came gushing at me, how it all fell together when Rhaskos and Melisto finally meet, revealing their secrets to each other in what may be called a miracle at the time. The build-up to that moment was so good!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kidlitter

    Were you the sort of child who read Rosemary Sutcliff? Have you tried to get others to read Geraldine McCraughean? Did you plod through Bullfinch's and failing that, tackle Roger Lancelyn Green? Did you read Mary Renault and Robert Graves only to realize that children's writers were writing about ancient Greece in all its mystery, cruelty and glory with stories every bit as savage, incomprehensible and gorgeous as the original myths? Do you consider Wendy Orr and Megan Whalen Turner to be their Were you the sort of child who read Rosemary Sutcliff? Have you tried to get others to read Geraldine McCraughean? Did you plod through Bullfinch's and failing that, tackle Roger Lancelyn Green? Did you read Mary Renault and Robert Graves only to realize that children's writers were writing about ancient Greece in all its mystery, cruelty and glory with stories every bit as savage, incomprehensible and gorgeous as the original myths? Do you consider Wendy Orr and Megan Whalen Turner to be their spiritual heirs? Then Schlitz has written the book of the year for you - an ambitious, sweeping, engrossing read that's a bit bonkers but if the right reader gets to it at the right time, oh the possibilities of becoming hooked on the classics in all their brutal, unvarnished, fascinating are waiting! The story is epic and Schlitz is never afraid to stuff everyday details into her work and not pretend that she expects her readers to know much about the periods she's writing about. All of those illustrations of pseudo-artifacts that help to contextualize the times and propel the reader along - so clever and hopefully will make trips to the museum not quite as boring next time. And that cover - gorgeous, though it skews Tween. That is where Schlitz lands on the library shelves, so Children's and Teen librarians are going to have to work to get it into those hands.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Amber and Clay has received so much hype but it completely missed the mark for me. The plot was interesting but the format was confusing and gimmicky. When I read children’s literature or YA literature I try to think who can I recommend it to. Which of my students would love this book? I don’t know. It’s long and drawn out. You do not get enough time with either Rhaskos Ir Melisto until pretty far into the story. It’s really frustrating because the whole story of Melisto going to Brauron was the Amber and Clay has received so much hype but it completely missed the mark for me. The plot was interesting but the format was confusing and gimmicky. When I read children’s literature or YA literature I try to think who can I recommend it to. Which of my students would love this book? I don’t know. It’s long and drawn out. You do not get enough time with either Rhaskos Ir Melisto until pretty far into the story. It’s really frustrating because the whole story of Melisto going to Brauron was the best part and it was just a few short pages. There were so many characters introduced who really were useless. I know this book has been praised over and over again and I wanted to look it because I’m a fan of the author, but truly this was one of my least favorite books that I have read this year. Finally the Author’s Note was the icing on the bitter cake. “When I first began researching this novel, I was shocked by the hardships of Greek life, by the oppression of women and enslaved people.” What?!? How is that shocking? Has the author just completely ignored everything about Western culture??? Overall, would not recommend. And the fact that it’s on so many mock Newbery lists is so upsetting.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Heather Moore

    My 13 year old and I started this book on audio and quickly realized that this was too confusing a story to have read to us. So, I downloaded the kindle version to my paperwhite and started reading aloud from the beginning, and then realized that the pictures played a major part in the story and that we were going to have to read the hard copy book. As our library doesn’t own it yet, we bought this middle grade novel for TWENTY DOLLARS. And you know what? Worth it. Every penny. Once we finally s My 13 year old and I started this book on audio and quickly realized that this was too confusing a story to have read to us. So, I downloaded the kindle version to my paperwhite and started reading aloud from the beginning, and then realized that the pictures played a major part in the story and that we were going to have to read the hard copy book. As our library doesn’t own it yet, we bought this middle grade novel for TWENTY DOLLARS. And you know what? Worth it. Every penny. Once we finally settled into reading the hard copy, we were both hooked. I haven’t read a better book that plops the reader right in the center of Ancient Greek life — the war between Sparta and Athens, Greek gods, Socrates is a minor/major character, artifacts take center stage — it’s all there. Not to mention all the clever tricks the author uses in her writing — this is definitely one of the most creatively written books I’ve read in a long time. Having said all that, I’d reserve reading this one aloud to teens and up. It could be fairly confusing to younger kids and also there’s some crude language and a couple of moments throughout that might give a mom of younger kids reason for pause.

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