CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 3. . . .September 22, 2017
The Spartanís March. (Warrior Heroes).
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2017.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $13.95 (pbk.), $29.95 (List RLB), $23.96 (School RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2867-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2865-8 (RLB).
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Mary Harelkin Bishop.
Silent and alert, they carefully picked their way along the rocky path that hugged the shoreline and led away from the camp. Ahead, they could see torchlight, and Adakios motioned to the boys to follow him off the track. They pressed themselves into gaps between rocks as the torchbearer approached. It was a solitary Spartan soldier. Adakios slipped his dagger from his belt and tensed, then watched as the soldier walked past, oblivious to the three fugitives.
Adakios set off again at a pace that was somewhere between a slow jog and a fast walk, and the boys soon settled into his rhythm. They had only been going for a few minutes, when Adakios came to an abrupt halt. The boys saw his raised handís shadow in the darkness and stopped as well-hearts thumping with the tension. Someone ahead was whistling.
Weíre far enough from the camp now thatís itís obvious weíre running away, Finn thought, shivering silently as he considered what the Spartans were likely to do with desertersÖ
ÖAll through the previous night they had been so tired that Drakon had seemed a distant threat. It was unnerving to be reminded of what and who they were up against. Two boys and two helots against a group of well-trained Spartan warrior-psychopaths who were out for revengeÖIt was a sobering thought, and it propelled them all forward with renewed energy.
Arthur and his brother, Finn, are time travelers on a mission. After breaking into their great-grandfatherís museum one night, they discover that they have an important job. The museum is home to many restless warrior ghosts, and it is up to the boys to go back in time to help solve problems of the past. Before they go, the ghost warrior tells the boys what he wants to change in his life. Once in the past, it is up to Finn and Arthur to find the ghost warrior in his earlier life and help him solve the issue that keeps him from having a peaceful after life.
Finn, the nerdy brother, is smart and well-read and knows quite a bit about warriors and ancient history. Finn uses his wits to help the boys stay out of trouble and to solve problems, although it doesnít always work. Arthur is stronger physically and is good at fighting and martial arts. He gets the job of defending the boys and of fighting when neede, although, in this story, both boys find themselves needing to defend themselves. Their job in The Spartanís March is to help Adakios, a helot, save his family from Drakon, a vengeful Spartan.
The helots were Spartan slaves and were treated very badly by the Spartans. In order to keep the helots under control, the Spartans regularly terrorized them by killing them at random. Adakios has displeased Drakon, one of the Spartan warriors, and Drakon and a group of Spartans are on their way to Adakiosí home where they intend to kill the entire family. Adakios asks Finn and Arthur to go back to the days around the great battle at Thermopylae to help save his family.
The story is well-planned with short chapters of intense drama and action. Interspersed every chapter or two are entries from Finnís journal giving important information about Ancient Greece, the Spartans and helots. Written in Finnís voice, these passages give the readers interesting background knowledge which is needed in order to understand and which enriches the story. This additional information also builds the readerís background knowledge of the history of Greece and Sparta. Finn and Arthur are even in Ancient Greece during one of the first Olympic Games. They describe hearing the cheering crowds, but do not actually witness an event, something which would have really added interest to the story and given the boys another adventure.
With its large font, The Spartanís March would appeal to young readers, especially boys. The vocabulary is accessible to struggling readers, and the content and plot of the story are interesting and vivid enough to keep the readerís interest. I really enjoyed reading The Spartanís March and even learned a little more about the history of the Spartans and helots.
Mary Harelkin Bishop is the author of nine books and is most well-known for the ďTunnels of Moose JawĒ time travel adventures. Her newest publication is a novel for readers in grades 4 to 6 and is entitled Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone. As well, Mary has published a picture book, Ginaís Wheels which is based on an incident from the life of Paralympic Champion Colette Bourgonje. Mary is currently working as an Instructional Consultant in the area of Literacy for Saskatoon Public Schools.
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