Monday, August 13, 2012

Middle Grade Monday-- Athena's Son

Athena's Son
Schoenbeck, Jeryl. Athena's Son
11 December 2011, Papyrus Publishing (Book sent by author)

Archimedes arrives at the School of Alexandria after a horrible voyage by ship from Greece. He has been sent because he is such a talented scholar, but he also manages to get himself into trouble. He irritates the high priest Ptahhotep while trying to show an Egyptian how to improve the speed of his wagon; even though Archimedes does make the wagon faster, he causes a disturbance outside the temple. The head of the school, Callimachus, is very understanding and helps smooth things over with the priest, but before long Archimedes has himself embroiled in two mysteries-- one involving the murder of workmen at the sight of Pharoah Ptolemy II's Pharos lighthouse, and one that the Pharoah's daughter, Berenike, is trying to solve about the death of Alexander the Great, whose body is in the possession of the Egyptians. There are many nefarious adults around, from the evil sailor Pollux, who comes back to haunt Achimedes, to the shady Roman Remus Decimus, but Archimedes manages to use his skills and knowledge to solve both mysteries, even though he and Berenike are almost killed in the process!
Strengths: Mr. Schoenbeck has done a good job with an intriguing mystery with lots of action as well as some grossness and gore! This would be a very useful book to use in our 7th grade, when ancient Greece and Egypt are studied. It would be fun to try some of the many experiments in science class while going over the real people in the book in social studies. There are many small details, such as food eaten, clothing worn, that make this especially fun. Readers who liked Caroline Lawrence's The Roman Mysteries will definitely adore this.
Weaknesses: Some of the descriptions of Archimedes' experiments are a bit didactic, and while his relationship with Berenike is fun, it seems a tiny bit unlikely. I was also bothered by two small anachronisms, mainly because most of the book was so authentic-- when Archimedes uses measurements, he uses grams, and at one point the mystery of Alexander is hinging on whether the reading of a Demotic Greek manuscript should be "son" or "sun", while in (at least modern Demotic)  ήλιος and γιος would not be mistaken for each other. Of course, maybe I just through that criticism in so that everyone knows I minored in ancient Greek in college!

Be sure to head over to Shannon Whitney Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe for this week's list of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, and over to Teach Mentor Texts to see what everyone is reading this week. 


  1. Mrs. Yingling, I'll be sure to check this one out for our library. Our 5th graders study Ancient Greece, so I'm sure I can "hand sell" this to them. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. You minored in Greek in college! Fascinating. Another book I hadn't heard of. I thought your review was great and very informative. I must check this out- I have a lot of readers who love mythology. :)