Newbery Contender: “Amber & Clay” by Laura Amy Schlitz

Book review: Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz (tween fiction)

Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of numerous award-winning books, including the Newbery award-winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, and the Newbery honor Splendors and Glooms. She also wrote the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and a National Jewish Book Award Winner, The Hired Girl, and received a Cybils award for A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama. Her writing is broad in scope and captures many different points in history and styles of writing.

In Amber & Clay, the story follows Rhaskos and Melisto, unalike in many ways, with profoundly different lives, and never truly meeting within the narrative, but whose stories are entwined in many curious ways. Rhaskos is a Thracian slave who is torn from his mother and sold to a wealthy family who, after a series of miserable years, sells him to a Greek potter as a stable boy. Treated badly by those around him, Rhaskos becomes enamored with drawing horses, and strikes up a friend with the old philosopher, Socrates. Melisto is the daughter of an aristocrat, spoiled by her father but hated by her mother and ultimately sent off to serve Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, where she befriends a bear and a kindly monk, and her life takes an unexpected turn. Ghosts, gods, and a wily philosopher ultimately weave the two children’s stories together.

Written in both prose and verse, with the Greek god Hermes chiming in on occasion, Schlitz moves between writing styles with ease. Illustrations by Julia Iredale of imaginary artifacts included with each chapter help paint a vivid portrait of ancient Greek life and will be sure to capture the imagination of any reader who has read Percy Jackson but wants something slightly more grounded but with a definite historical backbone.

Let us know what you think of this one! How did you like the illustrations? Do you think they seemed like things that one might find if you were at an archeological dig in Greece? There’s a certain plot twist halfway through the book that certainly surprised me. Did it surprise you?

~ Ms. Emily

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