cover image Dateline: Troy

Dateline: Troy

Paul Fleischman. Candlewick Press (MA), $17.99 (80pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-469-5

Newbery Medalist Fleischman (Bull Run; Joyful Noise!) turns the Trojan War into an occasion for social studies, with the result that his audience may have to sacrifice some of the pleasures of reading in exchange for a fresh approach to history or current events. In this beautifully designed book, the author juxtaposes an unusually elegant redaction of the legendary conflagration at Troy with newspaper clippings that report events ranging from World War I to sociological experiments on babies' reactions to unattractive women. Each page of text faces such clippings, selected to highlight relevant themes. For example, the passage about the reunion of Paris, abandoned at birth, with his father, King Priam, appears opposite the beginning of a 1988 article from the Washington Post about a woman's search for the son she gave up for adoption in 1967. Other spreads refer to 20th-century wars (the two world wars, Vietnam, the Falklands, Korea, Cyprus, the Middle East) in support of Fleisch- man's thesis that war is futile: he concludes his abridged epic with the question ""Who could tell the victor from the vanquished?"" Laid against sophisticated graphic backgrounds, the clippings become handsome collages. Even so, the combination of elements remains inharmonious--the collages invite readers to digress from the story rather than determine its meanings for themselves. Instead of offering individual readers an unsupervised literary experience, this experiment succeeds chiefly as a catalyst for class discussion. Ages 12-15. (Mar.)