We’ll wrap up our month of recommendation for kids and teens and in between with a title geared toward middle schoolers, set in ancient Greece. Rosalind Casey of Books of Wonder in Manhattan recommended “Amber and Clay” by Newberry Medal-winning author Laura Amy Schlitz.
It’s a story of two very different children, bound by fate. Melisto is the daughter of a wealthy Athenian citizen, privileged and willful, who seeks adventure away from the prescribed life of Greek women by spending a season serving Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Rhaskos, meanwhile, is a Thracian slave who spends his days caring for horses that are valued more highly than he is. He is fascinated by arts, beauty and philosophy. It’s not a spoiler to tell you that one of the two characters spends much of the story as a ghost.
“It's really like nothing else I've seen in middle grade recently,” says Casey. “It's also really like nothing else I've seen done at all.”
The novel is told in a mix of prose, poetry and pictures by artist Julia Iredale that are presented like items found in a museum. The story is interwoven with the voices of snarky gods and clever philosophers, bits of Sapphic poetry and recreated Socratic dialogue — and some very funny footnotes. Casey called it a fascinating, hopeful story and said that despite its hefty length of 544 pages, the story moves quickly and sweeps readers along with it.
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