Thursday, July 5, 2012

Athena's Son

Athena's Son by Jeryl Schoenbeck is a brand new book by a brand new author that exemplifies one of the reasons I love the Kindle: this book is self-published by a 6th grade history teacher who knows his material and loves his students enough to produce a remarkable work of historical fiction. Thanks to the democratic revolution that e-readers have brought to the publishing industry, Mr. Schoenbeck was able to offer this book to all of us, without the obstacles that stood between readers and writers in the past.

When I assigned Athena's Son as part of our ancient history studies, it was based on nothing but the preview on Amazon. When I was able to borrow it for free through Amazon Prime, that was an added bonus. But my 11-year-old son loved it so much, he spent his own money to buy a copy "so I can come back to it again and again." Then he asked if he could write a paper.

Without any plot details, I'm sold on a book that makes my writing-phobic son volunteer a paper! When that was followed up with a personal reply from the author, offering a signed copy of the book to my son, I decided to move Athena's Son from the middle of my to-be-read pile to the top.

It's been a busy two weeks, so I'm only halfway through, but I can already tell you: this book should be required reading for everyone studying ancient history.

You know how we study the Egyptians, take a test, and then study the Greeks? Each civilization, from the Phoenicians to the Romans occupies its own space on the academic calendar, rarely crossing these artificial lines that we've constructed. As an adult, I remember being startled to discover that Cleopatra was a Greek queen, not an Egyptian, and later that the Greeks had been fascinated with the Egyptians in much the same way that the Romans were fascinated with the Greeks.

I know trading happened. But I'd never thought about encounters between these civilizations, their customs, their gods. Athena's Son vividly illustrates just that, bringing the cultures and civilizations of the ancient world together and centering them around the childhood of Archimedes, whose intelligence earns him the title, "Athena's Son."

My aspiring engineer/inventor reveled in the story of a boy who would have been a fascinating friend, and I am likewise enjoying the very palatable and provocative history lesson.

Maybe if enough of us buy a copy of Athena's Son, Mr. Schoenbeck will give us the happy privilege of reading his next book!

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