Amber & Clay

Written by Laura Amy Schlitz, Illustrated by Julia Iredale

Related through the voices of Greek gods, a boy slave, and a brave and high-born girl, this Young Adult historical novel takes you through an amazing journey of ancient Greece and the lives of the characters who lived there. I was thoroughly blown away by the quality of the writing, as well as the depth of the characters and their development throughout the story. I, for one, absolutely love ancient Greece and its mythology, so I was absolutely delighted with the way the author described and detailed so much about the history, religion, and daily lives of the of such an ancient and influential civilization. The characters were likable and believable and the plot was riveting, especially since the author masterfully used real-life archeological discoveries to create every part of the story. This book reinforces the atrocities of abuse, slavery, and injustice, while readers are fed the wonderful philosophies of Socrates and Plato in a beautiful and palatable way. I definitely recommend this book for school libraries. The reading level of the book claims to be for elementary students but, because of the structure of the storyline and occasional mature content of some parts of the story, I would only recommend it to Junior High and High School level students and feel it would not be understood or appropriate for the younger minds. All in all, I absolutely loved this book!

Reviewed by Natalie Dean, Media Clerk, Woodrow Wilson Elementary School Library
Review shared in March 2022
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 7-12


Amber & Clay is different from any book I’ve read.  It combines chapters in verse and prose with pictures of ancient artifacts set in ancient Greece.  It’s the story of two children whose destinies are intertwined by the Gods, though they don’t know it at the beginning.  There’s the boy Rhaskos, a Thracian slave, whose mother loves him but is sold away before he is even 5.  His only comfort is drawing horses in the dirt and later on pottery, when he is sold to a tradesman in Athens.  Then there is Melisto, a spoiled girl born into wealth. Her father adores her but she is disliked by her mother.  Alternating between chapters about their lives, the Gods address us as readers, asking us what we think of these two characters and what their fate will be.  By the last 3rd of the book, one of the children is dead and bound to help the other in order to move on.

I kept wanting to give up on this book.  The stories unwind slowly and I was impatient to see how Rhaskos and Melisto come together.  But there’s a big payoff.  The writing is excellent all the way through and in the end, I was glad I finished it.  I really cared about these characters, rooted for them, and learned a lot about ancient Greek history, mythology and slavery.  In fact, it was really interesting to see slavery in this context, in comparison with African-American slavery – I found a lot of parallels.  I would definitely recommend reading the book instead of listening to it.  I feel like I missed a lot by having everything described instead of seeing it.  For older kids who love Percy Jackson, mythology, ancient history, or want to do a deeper dive into that world, this would be a good fit, but probably better for middle schoolers on up.

Reviewed by Andrea LeBaron, Media Clerk, Upland Terrace Elementary School Library
Review shared in March 2022
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
Interest Level: Middle School and Up

Amber & Clay
Written by Laura Amy Schlitz, Illustrated by Julia Iredale
Candlewick Press
532 pages
Release Date: March 9, 2021
ISBN: 9781536201222 
A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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