Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: AMBER AND CLAY by Laura Amy Schlitz
Introduced by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Michelle Lettus
Amber & Clay is probably one of the most complex works on this list. Laura Amy Schlitz uses many styles and forms of writing to tell the story of Melisto and Rhaskos. Hermes begins to tell the tale in verse. Like Hermes, Rhaskos tells his story in verse. Melisto, staying true to character by being different from the others, starts her part of the story in prose. Throughout the novel, different characters voice their opinions using turn and counter-turn. Amongst all of this, there are illustrations of exhibit items along with captions. These show important items that we learn about in the story. Different gods pop in to give their take on the situation which only adds another layer to this story. When you turn the page, you really don’t know what to expect.
As for the content of the story, we are introduced to Rhaskos and Melisto. Rhaskos is a slave whose mother is taken and sold to Melisto’s family. Melisto is the daughter of a wealthy man and is wild and stubborn. It is a clever way to link these two characters who have nothing else in common because Thratta was important to both of them. Rhaskos only has his mother for a very short time. Melisto’s mother is cruel to her and asks why she was cursed with her for a daughter. When Melisto dies, Thratta curses her, saying she will not rest in death until Rhaskos is free. Ending the story with two exhibit pieces, we find that Rhaskos is freed and able to create the art as he longed to do throughout the story.
Delineation of characters and plot are two points where this story is strong. Rhaskos start as a small boy, who is a slave and his mother is taken away from him. He grows to be an artist with incredible talent and he fights for his freedom. Melisto is stubborn and wild, and even in death, she is fierce. For those who are interested in Ancient Greece and mythology, this book will be a delight.
Heavy Medal Award Committee members and others are now invited to discuss this book further in the Comments section below. Please start with positive observations first; stick to positives until at least three comments have been posted or we reach 1:00 pm EST. Let the Mock Newbery discussion begin!:
About Emily Mroczek-Bayci
Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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