heldenbaer1, May 18, 2006
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This novel is one of two that Mr. Denenberg has written for this series. Having read and reviewed ?Maia of Thebes,? I wanted to read these other two works, as possible inclusions for my own home-schooled children, as we study this year Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. This review is about both ?Pandora of Athens,? and ?Atticus of Rome.? While Ms. Turner?s book, (Maia) set in Ancient Egypt, could easily be used as a ?read-aloud? for younger elementary age children studying this early civilization, neither of Mr. D?s books in this same series would, in this reviewer?s opinion, even be suitable for pre-adolescents, let alone Elementary age readers.
In both of these books from the ?Life and Times? series, (published by Scholastic) Mr. Denenberg?s penchant for including vile scenarios (the practice of crucifixion, depictions of blood- lust and graphic yet glamorized descriptions of gladiatorial battles in ?Atticus?), suggestive prose (prurient verbal descriptions of the female anatomy and allusions to the onset of menses in ?Pandora?) and in both novels, tantalizing glimpses of concepts re: to pagan attitudes (civic and religious worship of the time) at odds with a civilized/Christian society/worldview, are things which I believe most HS parents would find extremely offensive; or at the very least, in extremely poor taste, (to put it mildly). My wife (an Elementary Ed. Teacher) was disgusted by my reading aloud some of Denenberg?s prose in ?Pandora.? She teaches fourth grade in an inner-city school, and clearly told me that, (while acknowledging that she has daily to deal with issues such as: knives toted by students, ?in-your-face? attitude, early puberty among the ?children of color,? and the beginnings of sexual banter of the most vile sort from same) she would NEVER choose these books, if a choice had to be made for supplemental reading in HER classroom.
My own interest in the possibility that these books would make easy a set of ?readers? to supplement my HS task has been completely disillusioned by these books of Mr. Denenberg. However, to be fair, I will say that, for an unusually mature sixth grader on up, the second of these books would be just the sort of thing that a ?real boy? would find fascinating, specifically because of the blood, guts, and intrigue in ?Atticus,? which is the far better written, constructed, and paced of the two books. Having said that, nevertheless, I found both of Mr. Denenberg?s offerings to be totally unsuited for young children. I give them a wide berth, therefore, and offer only one star for the level of writing alone in ?Atticus.? I?d rather read D?Aulaire?s marvelous account of the real Pandora?s BOX, (not jar, as Denenberg erroneously has Socrates narrate!) than this tawdry attempt at a Grecian Harlequin romance, rather than historical fiction.