Heather, Oak and Olive
by Rosemary Sutcliff
Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach
Heather, Oak and Olive is a collection of three stories set in ancient times. Each plunges readers instantly into the story's time and place. The likeable characters have dilemmas that cannot be easily solved, leading to bittersweet, haunting endings. A rich vocabulary helps bring the scenes to life, but may be difficult for younger readers.
The Chief's Daughter is about a girl who has rescued a boy from sacrifice after her tribe defeated a raiding party and captured him. The boy longs for his Irish homeland and is not as grateful as the girl thinks he should be. Then the tribe's well starts to dry up. Is the Goddess angry they didn't sacrifice him?
Set in Roman Britain, A Circlet of Oak Leaves begins when a man tries to calm tempers when legionaries in a tavern begin taunting a young auxiliary cavalryman. Little by little, readers learn more about a battle during the man's youth that changed his life forever. Should he feel proud or ashamed of what he did?
A Crown of Wild Olive is about an Athenian teen who, almost by accident, becomes friends with a Spartan he will compete against during the Olympic Games. He finds it hard to sort out his feelings, especially since Athens and Sparta are at war, and the month-long truce of the Olympic Games will end when the Games do.
The stories were originally published separately. Before appearing in this collection, A Crown of Wild Olive was titled The Truce of the Games. Both teens and adults who appreciate thoughtful, well-written historical fiction will enjoy them. (1972; 120 pages; recommended for ages 12 and up)
More about Heather, Oak, and Olive at Amazon.com
Other novels set in ancient times:
Black Horses for the King by Anne McCaffrey (1996), about a boy in fifth-century Britain who interprets for Lord Artos when he buys horses for his warband. Recommended for ages 12 and up. More info
Pankration: The Ultimate Game by Dyan Blacklock (1999), about a boy who is kidnapped just before he plans to attend the Olympic Games with his friends. Recommended for ages 9-12. More info
I Marched with Hannibal by Hans Baumann (1962), about a boy who joins Hannibal's march over the Alps to attack Rome with elephants. More info
Nonfiction about ancient Britain, Greece and Rome:
The Roman Conquest of Britain by Brenda Williams (1996). More info
The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens and Rome by Peter Connolly and Hazel Dodge (1998). Recommended for ages 12 and up. More info
Olympic Games in Ancient Greece by Shirley Glubok (1975). More info
The Ancient Greek Olympic Games at YouTube
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