Newbery Award-winning author and Park School librarian Laura Amy Schlitz publishes her ninth children’s book this month. Amber and Clay, available March 9, blends verse, prose, and illustrated archaeological “artifacts” in a tale that vividly transcends time.
Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, “ringed by a restless sea,” live Rhaskos and Melisto, spiritual twins with little in common beyond the violent and mysterious forces that dictate their lives. A Thracian slave in a Greek household, Rhaskos is as common as clay, a stable boy worth less than a donkey, much less a horse. Wrenched from his mother at a tender age, he nurtures in secret, aided by Socrates, his passions for art and philosophy. Melisto is a spoiled aristocrat, a girl as precious as amber but willful and wild. She’ll marry and be tamed—the curse of all highborn girls—but risk her life for a season first to serve Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
Bound by destiny, Melisto and Rhaskos—Amber and Clay—never meet in the flesh. By the time they do, one of them is a ghost. But the thin line between life and death is just one boundary their unlikely friendship crosses. It takes an army of snarky gods and fearsome goddesses, slaves and masters, mothers and philosophers to help shape their story into a gorgeously distilled, symphonic tour de force.
(Description from Candlewick Press, Schlitz’s publisher.)
Amber and Clay has received five starred reviews and was chosen as Amazon’s Best Book of the Month for March.
In a lyrical verse novel packed with ancient myths and well-defined characters, Schlitz (The Hired Girl) takes readers to ancient Greece to tell the saga of two children, virtual strangers, who form a bond extending beyond life. . .the book is as meticulously researched as Schlitz’s previous novels, as evidenced in detailed descriptions of settings and lifestyles. Her exploration of the human condition (“Nobody ever gets out of anything”) delves into both characters’ psyches through a pensive, contemporary-feeling narrative that easily propels readers along.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Volcanic in power, virtuosic in form, peerless in nuanced execution, Amber and Clay is compulsively readable. I was in thrall to its lyric and threnody at breakfast and at lunch and going up the stairs. The muse chose right in inspiring Laura Amy Schlitz to give us this haunting tale of duty, liberty, art, and friendship.
—Gregory Maguire, New York Times best-selling author of Wicked