Schlitz, Laura Amy. Amber & Clay. Julia Iredale, Illus. Fiction. Candlewick, 03/2021. 544pp. $29.99. 978-1-5362-0122-2. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 6-9.
Red-haired Rhaskos, a “slave boy” and artist (“as common as clay”), and brown-skinned Melisto, a high born and rebellious girl (“as precious as amber”), cross paths in Ancient Greece. Their stories are amplified by a large cast of supporting characters, including Sokrates (yes, that Socrates) and assorted Greek gods. Schlitz creates distinct voices by employing a variety of styles, including both prose and verse. An afterword explains how she used Greek literary techniques and conventions to enhance her writing and build authenticity. Each section of the book cleverly begins with an illustration and analysis of an imagined artifact; e.g., a fragment of a broken pot with an inscription, circa 400 BCE. The book’s length and unique structure may deter some readers, but the payoff is a beautifully rendered story. Educators seeking inspiration for students studying Ancient Greece need look no further!
Jenny Andrus, Independent