Amber & Clay
Amber & Clay

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Annotation: A novel in verse relates the story of Rhaskos and Melisto, one a common slave and the other a spoiled aristocrat, who are bound together by fate and form an unlikely friendship that crosses the boundary of life and death.
Catalog Number: #300141
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2021
Edition Date: 2021
Illustrator: Iredale, Julia,
Pages: 532 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 1-536-20122-7 Perma-Bound: 0-8000-0177-X
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-536-20122-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-8000-0177-3
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2021933420
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Publishers Weekly
In a lyrical verse novel packed with ancient myths and well-defined characters, Schlitz (The Hired Girl) takes readers to ancient Greece to tell the saga of two children, virtual strangers, who form a bond extending beyond life. Wild and rebellious Melisto, -a rich man-s daughter, and a proper Greek,- is adored by her father but unloved by her mother. Enslaved, red-haired Rhaskos, who was separated from his mother at a young age, weathers torment until he is sold to Phaistus, a formerly enslaved potter who recognizes Rhaskos- talent for drawing but apprentices him without hope of freedom. Both children are desperate to escape their predicaments, but how and when they cross paths remains a mystery until the final chapters. Featuring insightful narratives from philosopher Sokrates and several Greek gods (Artemis, Athena, Hephaistos, Hermes) as well as illustrations of archeological items by Iredale (Myths and Legends of the World), the book is as meticulously researched as Schlitz-s previous novels, as evidenced in detailed descriptions of settings and lifestyles. Her exploration of the human condition (-Nobody ever gets out of anything-) delves into both characters- psyches through a pensive, contemporary-feeling narrative that easily propels readers along. Ages 10-14. Author-s agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. Illustrator-s agent: Alexandra Gehringer, the Bright Agency. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up Two children from vastly different backgroundsone common as clay, artistic and bright; the other precious as amber, wild, and forcefulshare stories of hardship and hope, life and death in this historical fantasy told as a Greek tragedy. Born a slave and considered a barbarian by the dominant culture, redheaded Rhaskos is taught to follow orders and never think for himself. Brown-skinned Melisto is born into an affluent Athenian household, but is abused and berated by a mother who wanted a son (or at least an obedient daughter). As the children grow so do their stories, until eventually the two become entangled through the work of the gods and Rhaskos's long-lost mother. Told from multiple perspectives, mostly in verse with some prose sections, Schlitz's latest novel is a beautifully crafted, complex masterpiece that unfortunately may be a tough sell for the intended audience. While the god Hermes acts as chorus, providing irreverent interludes as well as much-needed context, he cannot compensate for an often wide gap in the lived experiences of charactersat one point, Melisto's mother describes her pregnancy and laborand that of the reader. VERDICT This is a thoroughly researched, epic tale, but one that may have limited appeal. Share with readers who enjoyed other works by Schlitz or Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins, or for whom Katherine Marsh's Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is perhaps too mature.Kaitlin Frick, Darien Lib., CT
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
An artistic enslaved boy, “common as clay,” and a free-spirited girl, “precious as amber,” become “linked together by the gods” in this drama of ancient Greece.After his mother, Thratta, is sold, neglected, red-haired Rhaskos, 5, works in the stables of a wealthy household in Thessaly. Eventually sold to a potter in Athens, Rhaskos learns the trade, expands his drawing skills, and becomes friends with the philosopher Sokrates, who urges him to be his “own master.” Raised in a privileged Athens home, wild, brown-skinned Melisto is actively spurned by her mother and prefers her nurse, Thratta. After being sent away to serve the goddess Artemis, 10-year-old Melisto is killed by lightning and Thratta places a binding spell on her ghost, compelling her to find Rhaskos and set him free, thus pulling their stories together. Borrowing elements from classical Greek drama, the tale unfolds primarily in verse through alternating voices, including those of manipulative gods and goddesses as well as real and fictional secondary characters whose varied perspectives add vitality and momentum. Lyrically descriptive, surprisingly contemporary in feel, and laced with allusions to Greek mythology, history, and epic stories, the narrative offers a realistically diverse, colorful portrait of an ancient Greece in which slavery and warfare were prevalent. Black-and-white illustrations of archaeological artifacts add insight and depth to this meticulously researched story.A rich, complex, deftly crafted tale of friendship, creativity, and being true to oneself. (cast of characters, author's notes, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* At the start of Newbery Medalist Schlitz's latest ambitious offering, Greek god Hermes tells, in irreverent verse, a legend in which every person was once two people stuck together. The story to come, he says, is about a boy and girl who "weren't alike, but they fit together." In ancient Thessaly, watchful Rhaskos is born into slavery, to a Thracian woman taken from her home. When Rhaskos is still a child, his mother is sold to a wealthy man in Athens, whose headstrong daughter, Melisto, needs a firm hand. As Melisto's wildness catches the attention of the goddess Artemis and leads to a series of fateful choices, Rhaskos suffers a mercurial master and becomes enamored with horses and learning to replicate their form in clay. Though they aren't destined to meet least not while they're both alive askos and Melisto are inextricably bound together by fate. Schlitz anchors this astonishing work of historical fiction in Greek tradition: ancient gods and philosophers narrate (Sokrates appears throughout); she makes use of epic verse and literary devices from Greek plays (described in the extensive back matter); references to Homer are threaded through the text. She offers context for modern readers, elaborating on ancient Greece as a slave society, while Iredale's black-and-white illustrations offer glimpses of artifacts. Like its two central figures, this luminous creation is far more than the sum of its parts.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (3/1/21)
Starred Review for Horn Book (12/1/20)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews (12/1/20)
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly (12/1/20)
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 5-9

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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