Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dateline: Troy

Written by: Paul Fleischman

The last time I learned about Greek Mythology in-depth was about fifteen years ago when I was in the ninth grade.  It is no wonder that all I can recall are the names of a few of the more prominent Gods and Goddesses like Athena, Zeus, and Poseidon.  Although I do not remember many specifics about Troy, I do recall The Trojan Horse and how it was used as a decoy during the Trojan War.

Needless to say, at the start of reading Paul Fleischman’s, Dateline: Troy, I had relatively vague background knowledge.  As I began to read, I started to fill in some of the gaps I had about the Trojan War.  Fleischman gives us the less comprehensive version of Homer’s, The Iliad and includes some details of the events leading up to the Trojan War.  By doing so, Fleischman enables us to enjoy the story of this Greek Myth by making it easier to understand and follow.  The language is less complex and many details are left out. 

In addition to the story of Troy, Fleischman includes newspaper clippings from modern day times in order to show readers that although the Trojan War dates back to the Bronze Age, things in our world have sadly not changed all that much.   As Fleischman states, “The Trojan War is still being fought.  Simply open a newspaper…”

The headlines that parallel the events of the Trojan War range in date from World War I, which lasted from 1914-1918, through the Persian Gulf War, which occurred from 1990-1991.  In order for Fleischman to make his point, I feel his book should be a bit more current.  I had seen on sites like Amazon and Google Books that there is a new, revised edition of this story.  I was only able to view a few pages of the book online, but the summary of the newer edition still stated that the book still covered current events from 1914-1991.  I am wondering what changes were made in the new book.  It would be interesting to see if a newer book would include more current events. 

Fleischman’s love for history shines through in this book.  Countless hours must have been spent researching and finding the articles that were the perfect match that Fleischman was looking for.  As someone who was either not around or very young during the events recounted in this book, it was powerful to catch a glimpse into the headlines written during this time period.  Fleischman did cut off some of the articles so that you were unable to read each in full.  He left me wondering about the rest of the article. 

I think the most important thing that Fleischman achieved through this book was that he made me wonder about different events in history and he made me want to know more.  It is more interesting to read the headlines and the actual stories of the events in the past than it is to research it sometimes in a book that provides an overwhelming amount of information.  This book got me wondering what else happened and prompted me to search for more.

I was surprised to see on sites like Amazon that this book did get mixed reviews.  Interestingly, children wrote most of the negative reviews.  One critiqued Fleischman for not developing the characters and stated that it was confusing to follow from one page to the next.  Most of the children reviewed that this book would be great if you enjoyed reading mythology, but that if you did not then it would not be for you.   I think you certainly need background knowledge on both important events in American History as well as Greek Mythology prior to reading this book.  I believe this book is similar to Fleischman’s, Bull Run, in the sense that the reader does not get as much out of the book unless a lot of background knowledge is brought to the table.

I found the book to be intriguing and it did get me to think more about our modern day history and how it relates to the past.  It also sparked an interest in learning more about Greek Mythology.  I do think the book needs to be updated to include even more current events—perhaps if it did, the current high-school generation of readers would find the book more interesting and relevant to them. 


  1. I was thinking the same thing when you said that countless hours must have gone into the research of this book and the articles to match each event. He is an incredible author! You can tell in each just seems so clever.

  2. Well, if there were to be any "Engage and Hook" for Mythology, this is it. I appreciated that it wasn't so wordy and the language was easier to understand. I agree with you needing the background knowlede to read this book. I too had thought about the countless hours it would take to find the perfect article to parallel each event.