Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Newbery Medalist Fleischman (Bull Run; Joyful Noise!) turns the Trojan War into an occasion for social studies, with the result that his audience may have to sacrifice some of the pleasures of reading in exchange for a fresh approach to history or current events. In this beautifully designed book, the author juxtaposes an unusually elegant redaction of the legendary conflagration at Troy with newspaper clippings that report events ranging from World War I to sociological experiments on babies' reactions to unattractive women. Each page of text faces such clippings, selected to highlight relevant themes. For example, the passage about the reunion of Paris, abandoned at birth, with his father, King Priam, appears opposite the beginning of a 1988 article from the Washington Post about a woman's search for the son she gave up for adoption in 1967. Other spreads refer to 20th-century wars (the two world wars, Vietnam, the Falklands, Korea, Cyprus, the Middle East) in support of Fleisch- man's thesis that war is futile: he concludes his abridged epic with the question "Who could tell the victor from the vanquished?" Laid against sophisticated graphic backgrounds, the clippings become handsome collages. Even so, the combination of elements remains inharmonious-the collages invite readers to digress from the story rather than determine its meanings for themselves. Instead of offering individual readers an unsupervised literary experience, this experiment succeeds chiefly as a catalyst for class discussion. Ages 12-15. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Paul Fleishman's retelling of the Trojan War is uniquely illustrated with Frankfeldt and Morrow's collages featuring newspaper headlines from 1917 to 2005 (updating the 1996 edition). Each part of the story is told and accompanied with an illustration of newspaper headlines and images of similar contemporary events. In the part about judging for the fairest goddess to be awarded the golden apple, the story of Paris' predicament of the task is juxtaposed with the crowning of Miss Universe in 1991. The Greeks' search for Helen is set with the collage of the 2004 headline about the pursuit of Osama bin Laden. Achilles' disagreement and break off with Agamemnon is put side by side with Darryl Strawberry's contract dispute with the New York Mets in a 1989 article. The story of the Trojan horse is placed with the 1991 article about decoys used in the Persian Gulf War. The takeover of Troy was set against the 1969 My Lai Massacre article. The story and collages provide a catalyst for interesting discussion about the Trojan War and contemporary world events.
VOYA - Jay Wise
Using drama and pathos combined with the storyteller's flair, Fleischman splices a powerful retelling of the Trojan War and modern newspaper accounts in this update that includes more recent and relevant headlines and reproductions of newspaper stories than found in the earlier version (Candlewick, 1996/VOYA December 1996). Beginning with the prophecy of Paris's birth-that he would bring destruction upon Troy-and his choice of Aphrodite as the fairest of the Greek gods, the gripping tale recounts the Spartan army's attempt to return Queen Helen to her husband, Menelaus. History and myth entwine to recount deception, death, and slaughter muted slightly by asides telling the origin of dice (toys fashioned from sheep's knuckles) and the invention of the alphabet. Stunning headlines and visuals, many in sepia tones, juxtapose ancient terror and modern violence, like the Greek hero Achilles dragging Hector of Troy's body around Troy's city walls with the abuse of an American soldier's body in Somalia in 1993. Another headline prompts readers to compare the eight-year siege of Troy with the massive hunt for Osama Bin Laden. This intriguing, sophisticated concept adds depth and breadth seen in few nonfiction titles. Display this one prominently but be aware that frank discussion of sex in war ages the title to grades nine and up. Ending with the question, "Who could tell the victors from the vanquished?" this timely volume compels readers to consider the consequences of pain and passion and of war and peace.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-In this unusual and unsettling retelling of Homer's Iliad, the events of the Trojan War are juxtaposed against modern newspaper headlines. On the left-hand pages, Agamemnon and Menelaus lead the Greeks against the Trojans and the hero Achilles sulks in his tent; collages of newsprint and grainy photos reporting recent wars and political crises fill the facing pages. The parallels that are drawn vary from appropriate to clever to ludicrous. For example, stalemate in the war between Greeks and Trojans is compared to stalemate in the Afghan war of 1987. Nancy Reagan's reliance on astrologers provides a counterpoint to the reading of omens by the ancient seer Calchas. Jarringly, the battle between Achilles and Hector is matched with the death of a homeboy in an inner- city shoot-out, and the destruction of Troy evokes headlines about the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. The idea of finding common behavior among human beings across the millennia is an intriguing challenge and adults reading the book with students may find many issues to discuss. However, many of the news clippings, chosen from the last four decades of modern history, will be unrecognized by today's teens. The heroism of Homer's ancient warriors, driven by duty, honor, pride and the will of the gods, is lost here. What comes across in Fleischman's fine retelling is the universality of the human qualities of greed, treachery, and violence. It may ring true in our 20th-century consciousness, but it is not Homer.-Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
The more things change, the more things stay the same--an aphorism this book proves very well. Newbery awardwinner Fleischman goes right to today's headlines and shows that the ancient world and our own are not so very different at all. He retells Homer's tale of the Trojan War, "The Iliad", in a brisk narrative that will capture kids' attention. But the interesting thing about this book is the immediacy of its design. Each text page, simply bordered, faces a collage of recent newspaper articles that relate to what's going on in the story. For instance, the gods' contest at which Paris chooses the most beautiful woman is faced by a lace-bordered newspaper article about the Miss Universe contest, complete with a photo of Miss New Mexico being crowned. The Greeks' final destruction of Troy is complemented by a collage of articles about the human cost of war, including a sepia-toned picture of a child crying bitterly. One can only imagine the work that must have gone into finding the appropriate articles to match the telling. One problem with the design is that often only the headlines of the articles can be read. Too bad--they intrigue enough to make kids want to read more. Obviously, there are myriad uses for this book, and teachers and librarians should have fun finding them. As Fleischman says, "My best teachers in school were those who could take a seemingly remote topic and show its connection to my own life." He's done that here.
Perhaps the ultimate model for making history relevant: Fleischman (A Fate Totally Worse Than Death, 1995, etc.) retells the major events of the Trojan War, while the accompanying collages show photos and newspaper articles and headlines from this century that in some way are similar to those ancient events.
The idea is so immediate and arresting that readers may wonder why it's never been tried before. The parallels Fleischman finds are sometimes obvious, sometimes clever, occasionally brilliant, and always thought-provoking. The tinted collages alone are neither entirely artistic nor totally useful; all the articles are cut off and some are hard to read, and while references are given in the back, few children will have the perseverance to look them up. The art makes the link and then moves on, but such purposeful editing of the modern incidents makes more of a gimmick of the idea than may be intended. No sources are given for the Trojan War events, which becomes noticeable when the author uses a variant of the Odysseus story that is not from Homer. Despite these minor drawbacks, this is a superb and often inspiring work.