Friday, November 3, 2017

Blastback: Ancient Greece by Nancy Ohlin, illustrated by Adam Larkum

This is the third of the Blastback! series I've read. I loved Ancient Egypt, felt meh about Vikings, and now I'm back to mostly loving Ancient Greece.

Ohlin explains the geographic makeup of ancient Greece, which was not a single landmass as most people think of countries in the modern world. City-states are defined as well as the climate and general economy. Various aspects of daily life are included; there are chapters on democracy, religion, philosophy, and other elements that continue to influence people today. Ohlin also covers the less-palatable aspects of Greek life, like slavery, the position women had (or didn't have), and the battles between the city states that eventually made them vulnerable to outside attack. Final chapters talk about archaeological and other research, including how people are still discovering new things about ancient Greece today. There is a page on Greek discoveries that are still used today and a brief bibliography.

I liked the cartoons better in this title. They seem to have more spirit and life than in Vikings and there are some rather pointed ones showing women looking indignant at their exclusion from public life. The book neatly skirts (heh) more adult aspects of Greek life, clothing statues and Olympian participants and making no mention of the some of the more risque aspects of the lives of the gods and philosophers. One interesting story was a retelling of Pandora's box that had her husband, Epimetheus, opening her box to release ills upon the world. I did a little research of my own and there are versions of the myth from that angle, but they're not commonly retold. It would make an interesting discussion point though. My other complaint is there's no pronunciation guide for the many Greek names and turns that are used.

Overall, this is a nice, simple introduction to ancient Greek life and culture for beginning readers. I would recommend it as a beginning to discussion, not to be read on its own though as it is very simplistic. Which is why I chose it for a book club discussion!

Verdict: Although I've found the quality of this series to be a little uneven, I still strongly recommend them as a unique addition to your beginning chapter series collection. Magic Tree House readers will enjoy them, as will those who like history and nonfiction. They're also great for sparking discussion about what to look for in nonfiction and encouraging kids to read and learn more about history.

ISBN: 9781499801187; Published 2016 by little bee; Purchased for the library

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