You Wouldn't Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! by Fiona MacDonald and David Antram

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You Wouldn't Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! by Fiona MacDonald and David Antram

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: A very educational book on slavery in ancient Greece, but the comic book illustrations belie the very mature and dismal subject matter which may traumatise younger readers.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 36 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Franklin Watts
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0531238530

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You Wouldn't Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! takes a comic book approach to one of the darker sides of Ancient Greece. I can remember my teachers always telling me how enlightened and democratic the ancient Greeks were - however that democracy extended to only a small portion of the population. This book loosely covers the story of one of the less fortunate inhabitants of Ancient Greece, a Scythian mother living happily with her husband and children, until slave traders capture her and her children. In addition to the story of this poor woman's misfortune, the book will also cover some of the other atrocities visited upon slaves. It includes accounts of the murder of unwanted slave babies, beatings and other forms of brutality.

This is very well illustrated with comic-book style illustrations, although the scenes would be more fitting to a graphic novel. While well drawn, there isn't any humour to these portraits of human misery and despair. The book includes a very useful glossary, as well as few pages on life in ancient Greece in general. Unfortunately, both my sons had lost all interest in Greek history, a subject they had previously enjoyed, by the time this book was finished.

As educational as this is, I do wish I had read the book myself first and given a bit of thought into reading it to my children. My youngest is only 5 and the oldest nearly 9. Both boys were visibly shaken, and the youngest ended up in tears after they asked if things like this really happened. They had been aware that slavery had existed once a long time ago, but never really learned much about how horrible the life of a slave could be. I did stop reading this to them about half way through, but the damage was already done. I'm afraid I've just opened their eyes as to the darker side of human nature. The illustration of mother crying as her children are pulled away from her and the account of slaves being forced to throw babies the master does not want on the rubbish heap to die alone absolutely horrified both of my sons.

My sons love Horrible Histories and I had hoped they would enjoy this series as well, but some of the subject matter is simply too horrific, and this lacks the humour which breaks up Horrible Histories, lightening the mood and preventing the children from being too overwhelmed by the darker aspects of history. I had understood this book was meant to have plenty of humour as well, so I have spent the last hour reading and re-reading this looking for any trace of a joke, or a light-hearted moment. I do appreciate that making something so heart-breaking amusing would be difficult, and any attempt at humour might very well have belly-flopped. Nonetheless, after an hour searching I have not found anything the slightest bit funny, or that could possibly pass for a joke of any kind. This is not a light hearted read.

If I were rating this book on educational value alone, I would be giving this five stars. There is no question that this book will give children another perspective on Greek history. However, if I were rating for entertainment value or for age appropriate material it would rank 1 star. When asked, both boys felt that one star would be vastly over rating this. They have never hated a book so much. They also stated that they would rather read, write, clean their rooms or do anything other than read or listen to any more books in this series.

My biggest problem with the book is that I feel the subject matter is too extreme for the suggested age range of 7+. It isn't as if my children are exceptionally soft. They have read book after book on the world wars, and my oldest has some knowledge of the holocaust. However, something about the idea of babies being killed a horrible death and children torn away from their mothers affected them so deeply that they were still visibly upset several hours later. My 8 year old son also picked up some other bits from this book, leading to very uncomfortable questions. Sex is not actually mentioned, but there was enough there for a highly intuitive child to be able to guess as to how a slave could end up with a child she knows will be murdered or enslaved. It was a concept that had obviously never occurred to him before, and was certainly traumatic.

I feel the subject matter would be more appropriate for an older child, perhaps 13+, but I'm afraid the comic book illustrations and overall style might not suit a teen age reader. I do not want to judge this book based solely upon my own children though. Many children might be less sensitive to suffering of others, in fact I know a few who thoroughly enjoy it. But unless you have one of those little ones who delights in pulling the wings from flies, I wouldn't expect a child to enjoy this book. I would look at it more as a heavily illustrated text book, quite useful for older or less sensitive children from an educational standpoint, but not something few children would read on their own time. If you do decide to buy this - be very certain you read it yourself first before passing it on to a child.

We can recommend:

Deadly Days in History (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary and Martin Brown

The Comic Strip History of the World by Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner

Buy You Wouldn't Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! by Fiona MacDonald and David Antram at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy You Wouldn't Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! by Fiona MacDonald and David Antram at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy You Wouldn't Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! by Fiona MacDonald and David Antram at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy You Wouldn't Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece! by Fiona MacDonald and David Antram at Amazon.com.


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