Title: Athena's Son
Author: Jeryl Schoenbeck
Publisher: Papyrus Publishing
Publication Date: December, 2011
Genre/Format: Historical fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: In 276 BC, Egyptians are terrified when a series of murders are linked to Anubis, god of the dead. The evidence is inexplicable. The victims' bodies have no wounds and the killer's tracks are enormous animal prints. Egyptians believe the jackal-headed god doesn't want the new lighthouse build. The pharaoh needs someone special to solve the crimes, someone with the skills and intellect to track down a vengeful god.
Twelve-year-old Archimedes is that person. He is blessed by Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, with extensive knowledge of science, mechanics, and medicine. He has to tread carefully when he applies the cold logic of Greek science in a sultry, mystical world of Egyptian culture. But when an ancient scroll puts him on the path of the killer, it also brings another god back from the dead. Now Archimedes is going to need Athena's war skills.
What I Think: Oh my goodness! So much is going on in this novel and all of it is good.
First, suspense. The book starts off right away with a murder. It is very Alex Rider-esque because it isn't until a bit later that you figure out how this murder fits into the story. However, by beginning that way, the author sucks you into the story and already gives you a reason to want to keep reading. Then as you read through the story and Archimedes gets himself farther and farther into the murder-mystery at the center of the story, the suspense builds and at a certain point I just could not stop reading.
Second, history. There is so much history in this book! First, it is taking place in 2nd century BC Egypt when the Ptolemy family is ruling thus a tumultuous time because Greeks and Egyptians are both trying to live peacefully together. The Romans are also becoming part of the mix. Our characters are from all three nations. Second, part of the story is about Alexander the Great and has us look back at his reign. Although the book begins with an historical background index and maps, I found myself on Wikipedia many times throughout the reading because I wanted to know more about the fascinating things that were being shared with me.
Third, science. Archimedes is known for being a leading scientist in classical antiquity and this book shares with us some of the principles, inventions and theories he had. I was worried at first that the science aspect was going to seem forced, but I found that it fit perfectly within the story and just added to it. Also, the author made sure that all of the items discussed are actually findings of Archimedes thus are historically accurate as well.
Fourth, mythology. I love mythology. And this book has the best of both worlds as it discusses Greek and Egyptian mythology.
And there are other reasons as well: action, mystery, and culture. See, as I promised- a lot of stuff going on and all good. This book is very much worth a read and will find some readers in fans of Rick Riordan.
Read Together: Grades 6 to 8
Read Alone: Grades 6 to 10
Read With: Rick Riordan books, Who Was King Tut? by Roberta Edwards, Aphrodite the Diva by Joan Holub, Athena by George O'Connor, Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Snatch of Text: "The solution became clear when Ptahhotep laughed at him and told him not to drop the crown in the water. "By completely immersing the wreath in this bowl of water, an amount of water equal to the total volume of the crown will be expelled. This large plate," he pointed to the alabaster plate underneath the bowl, "will collect the water that spills." ...
"The water that spills onto the plate will be poured into this glass beaker, which will measure the volume of the water, and at the same time, the volume of the gold wreath." Archimedes' hand moved to the measuring scales. They were the same bronze scales the men were using to weigh gold when he and Berenike first entered the palace." (p. 89-90)
Mentor Text for: Suspense, Attention grabbers, Plot development, Historical fiction
Writing Prompts: At the time that this book takes place, 276BC, Herophilos, the physician, had already passed away. Why do you think that the author chose to have Herophilos be a character in the book? Why wouldn't he have made it 4 years earlier when he was alive? How would the book have been different without him?; What do you think was more important to Archimedes: religion or science? Find examples from the novel to support your opinion.
Topics Covered: Astronomy, Physics, Medical examination, Egyptian and Greek Mythology, Egyptian and Greek history, Heiroglyphics and Demotic language, Ptolemy family, School and Library of Alexandria
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