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Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad Paperback – April 6, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Childrens Books (April 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711215227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711215221
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sutcliff, who died last year, authored numerous retellings of canonical texts for younger readers. Here she brings into vivid focus the mythic story of the Trojan War, with all of its visually dramatic elements. While carefully tempering the bias towards the Greeks that exists in the original poem, Sutcliff's text leaves many of the epic's powerful metaphors intact: "The dark tide of warriors poured through and became a river of flame." Also preserved are a good many disturbing images ("Hector's body was dragged behind them, twisting and lurching over the rough ground, his dark hair flying and fouled with dust and all the filth of the battlefield"); and while there is no doubt that this authenticity maintains the saga's integrity and enhances its impact, younger or particularly sensitive readers may be disturbed by the violence. Accompanying the dense, earnestly told tale are Lee's cool-toned watercolors, which frequently take up the greater portion of the large format double-page spreads. Dreamy, yet highly detailed and filled with representational images, these illustrations are in keeping with the story's mythic grandeur. All ages.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 5 and up. "Achilles sat among his ships, nursing his anger as though it were a red rose in his breast." The late Rosemary Sutcliff always knew how to humanize the epic heroes without diminishing their power. Now, with the same kind of lyrical prose that distinguished her Arthurian trilogy, she takes on Homer's Iliad. People whose names we all know--Helen, Hector, Achilles, Odysseus, etc.--are all woven into one great story, with the jealous gods taking sides in the Greeks' 10-year siege of the city of Troy. Sutcliff's strong rhythms and Lee's misty watercolors in shades of brown, blue, and silvergray make this large-size volume great for reading aloud. There are dull patches about desultory battles, funeral games, and the weary machinations of gods and people, but you can skip those and get to the dramatic confrontations. Achilles sulks in his tent, then driven mad with grief and rage at the death of his friend Patroclus, he not only kills Hector, but also drags the body through the dust and filth of the battlefield. For all the rules of honor, this is a filthy battlefield, "clotted with blood," the soldiers drunk with fire and killing. Lee's illustrations show gateways choked with soldiers and chariots, men and women bent with sorrow. The climax, the story of the Wooden Horse, is amazingly told, taut with cunning and terror. Hazel Rochman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Rosemary Sutcliff wrote more than 40 historical novels for young adults-including The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers, The Sword and the Circle, and Black Ships Before Troy-five adult novels, and several books of nonfiction.

Customer Reviews

It is very well written because the book explains the story very well.
Eric Smith
Not only is it one of the fundamental texts of Western Literature but there are also numerous parent enthusiasts who are really committed to the story.
Marco Antonio Abarca
I have read several versions of The Iliad and after checking this book out from the library, decided this was the one I wanted in my permanent library.
Debbie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 113 people found the following review helpful By John Anderson on March 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having been brought up in a strong Classical background I was a little nervous of a "modern children's version" of the Illiad. I shouldn't have worried. I actually bought BLACK SHIPS for an undergraduate that I was tutoring on sources of modern British literature, but my 7 year old daughter took it away before I could get it to the college. I worried at first that Clare might be scared by some of the very dramatic pictures, but she was enthralled with the whole story and kept coming back to it for days afterwards. I should add that my undergrad was also entranced once I finnaly got it to her and felt that it compared very well with the complete translation of the original that we also read. New age? Hardly! This is a scholarly-but-fun-interpretaion of a gem.
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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Both my husband and I love the Iliad and wanted our children to grow up with it. We have about eight versions of the Iliad at home, and while our children like all of them, the Sutcliffe is far and above the best -- it doesn't patronize, it loses very very little of the plot's narrative, ethical, or emotional complexity, and the reviewer who claimed that "moral messages" are lost must not realize that Homer himself, thank the Gods, moralizes very little and that everything that could reasonably be called by that slightly unenchanting term 'message' is well and alive in this version. Over the last two years, we have read it aloud to both children (now 6+7) at least five times, both have read it or in it by themselves as well, and neither we nor they have grown tired of it. It isn't an easy book to read for younger children, and they need their parents the first time around, but its relative difficulty prolongs its shelflife considerably -- I imagine our children will return to it for quite a few years. The rather dramatic art work is certainly not 'new age,' but neither does it classicize. It's made a great present for our children's friends. My only complaint is that it hasn't come out in paperback.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Alihoopla on October 9, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I have not yet read this book- so my review is only based on my disappointment that I bought this book after reading about the wonderful illustrations. I have a much longer version of the Iliad, which I am reading to my children. I bought this so I could read it to them also, to give them more of an understanding of the Iliad. I read the wonderful reviews about the illustrations and thought the book sounded perfect. While the cover is beautiful, it is the ONLY illustration in the whole book. The older edition must be the one with the pictures, I will be checking into whether or not it is still available.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on September 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Rosemary Sutcliffe keeps the drama and poetic language of Homer's "The Iliad" alive in this wonderful version. My 6- and 8-year-old children sat glued to their seats as I read this story to them. The causes of the Trojan War (The Golden Apple, Paris and Helen) are explained well, and the ensuing battles are depicted with vivid details. Alan Lee's illustrations are perfect for this story-- they give a clear idea of what is happening without being gory. My children loved this book, as did I. I heartily recommend it for a read-aloud, or even for an adult who hasn't read "The Iliad" by Homer. It's a wonderful introduction.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am so grateful to have found this excellent version of the Iliad. The heroes, the action and the richness of the story are all maintained in this very accessible version of the classic. The story is broken into chapters that are each a good size for a bedtime read--although my 10 year old son pleaded for "1 more chapter" at the end of each one, and I continued because it is an enjoyable read-aloud. He finally took it himself and read it through. Any good listener who enjoys a rich story - age 7+ - would enjoy this as a read-aloud. Recommended.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By "dab_68" on April 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There are a few children's authors that are simply a must (Diane Stanley, Geraldine McCaughrean, Aliki, etc), and Rosemary Sutcliff is one of them!
The late Ms. Sutcliff has simply written the best version of the Illiad out there for children. Beginning with the wedding of Achilles' parents, the book covers all the major events of the Illiad including; the resulting dispute between the three Goddesses over the Golden apple, the judging by Paris, his departure with Helen, the hiding and finding of Achilles, and on, and on. Beautifully illustrated, every child should have one.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Laura on December 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read this aloud to my 6 and 10 year olds, and we enjoyed it (as well as Sutcliffe's companion book on the Odyssey). I thought the illustrations were well suited to the text and added interest, and the story held my children's and my interest as well. I would recommend it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Dujmovic VINE VOICE on December 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My seven year old and I read this together immediately after finishing the version of the Iliad retold by Ian Strachan and illustrated by Viktor Ambrus. While Sutcliff and Lee's effort is a good one, and I would recommend it highly, Strachan and Ambrus's is superior: the language is tighter and less florid, the artwork more dynamic and compelling. Unfortunately, the Strachan version is out of print and hard to find, but this one is a more than acceptable substitute.

Sutcliff's language is full (to the point of distraction) of similes and other figures of the "wine-dark sea" sort, which like a tongue-tingling seasoning (see what I mean?) is fine in moderation, but she overdoes it. Nevertheless, it's a good introduction to the Iliad. At 113 pages, it's possible to read this at bedtime over a week if you've checked it out from the school library, as my son did.

But do check out my review of the Strachan version.
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