Sunday, August 31, 2014

Men of Athens by Olivia Coolidge

This was my third and final Newbery book for the second mini-challenge part of the Newbery Reading Challenge. This was also a historical fiction pick for me.

When I first looked at Men of Athens, I thought it was going to be a nonfiction book about Ancient Greece, but as I read, I realized in some cases she used real people and in others there were made up characters. She also created dialogue for the actual real-life characters based on what we know of them. She did great research, but this belongs more in the realm of historical fiction. As far as content goes, some of the sections were fascinating and quickly read and a few were a bit slower. I also think this would not be a book given to children under 12 in today's society. It is not about children and it talks a little about orgies and the young marriages of Ancient Greek society, although not in any graphic way. More than content though the writing style is a bit more mature and dry at times.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, especially the Pericles/Aspasia section and the trial of Socrates section. Those sections make you feel like you are in the Greek discussion perhaps as they were during that time period. I don't think it is one I would recommend to kids or teens, but maybe older teens and adults interested in Ancient Greece. This is definitely not a quick read. 3.5 cups of cocoa.

Since I read this, Wrinkle in Time, and Thistle and Thyme, I have thought a lot about how books hold up over time. Wrinkle in Time is enjoyed by teens today as much as it was in the 1960s. A new movie is being made and the book itself is timeless. The other two are no longer in print and it is not really hard to see why. Thistle and Thyme would appeal to those who enjoy old style fairy tales and folktales, like me, but Men of Athens is not really going to appeal to very many people. I liked parts of it, but even for me, a history person, it was just not that interesting. The Newbery award has always been a bit controversial, since quite a few of the award books just don't appeal to children. I think it is slowly getting a little more kid friendly and I like that they chose based on literary merit, but we do need to think about how this will appeal to a child. We want children to read and love it, not feel like reading is torture. Thankfully there are Lois Lowry books and Kate Dicamillo books to recommend and add to that A Wrinkle in Time.

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