Amber & Clay
Lyrical, epic tale of ancient Greece is emotionally intense.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Amber & Clay is a historical novel set in ancient Greece by Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz. The story switches between free-verse poetry and prose, and also has several different narrators, including a few Greek gods who give their takes on events as they unfold. There are a few mentions of blood that aren't gory, but harsh realities of that time aren't skipped over, either. There's a description of a past difficult childbirth isn't detailed or gory but mentions pain. Important characters die, and death from war, famine, and disease are constant fears. One death by poison is narrated in detail. One narrator is enslaved and describes beatings, and being slapped with some detailed descriptions of pain. Forced separation from a parent at a young age is an important theme. Readers will learn a lot about the culture and geography of ancient Greece, Greek vocabulary, historical figures, mythology, and more. They'll find a lot of food for thought about justice, excellence, friendship, speaking truth to power, art, and much more. They'll also be encouraged to ask questions, that it's OK if they don't know the answer to a question, and to always keep trying to find out about themselves and the world around them.
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What's the Story?
AMBER & CLAY tells the story of Rhaskos, who was born into slavery in ancient Thessaly, in Greece. When he was very young his mother Meda was sold to another household in far-off Athens, and Rhaskos, by then called Thrax, was a stableboy spending most of his time shoveling manure. Meda was sold to a family with a rebellious and free-spirited daughter Melisto, who's about a year younger than Rhaskos. Melisto hated her life of confinement, never allowed outdoors and spending all her time learning how to weave. One year Melisto was chosen as part of a group of girls who live for a time in the countryside serving the goddess Artemis, where she had the freedom to discover new things about herself. But her time serving Artemis was cut short. Through Meda, Rhaskos (now enslaved in Athens and called Pyrrhos) and Melisto eventually cross paths and learn from each other about life, death, friendship, freedom, and more.
Is It Any Good?
Author and Newbery medalist Laura May Schlitz does a wonderful job of weaving together lots of different elements into a lyrical, epic story. Amber & Clay's rhythmic free verse of Rhaskos and the gods are well balanced with the compelling prose of Melisto's story and keep the pages turning. Big issues like life, death, justice, freedom, friendship, the afterlife, and more are handled with grace and depth, making for an emotionally moving and compelling read that's never over the top.
The two young narrators as they grow from about age 6 to 12 will bring ancient Greece to life thanks to their believable voices. There's tragedy and dark times, to be sure, but there's also joy and hope. Best for tweens and up who like history, poetry, archaeology, and language, and who can handle emotional intensity.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence and slavery in Amber & Clay. Did you read the Author's Note about slavery? Why don't any characters even ask whether it's right to enslave people or not?
Are Rhaskos and Melisto positive role models? What are their character strengths and weaknesses? Did you like them?
Have you read free-verse poetry before? Did you know that's what the parts narrated by Rhaskos and the gods are called? Did you like it? What are some of your favorite poems?
- Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
- Illustrator: Julia Iredale
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, History, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: March 9, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 544
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 26, 2021
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Spirited novel offers warts-and-all view of the Middle Ages.
For kids who love mythology and historical fiction
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