The subject matter of Olympic Games in Ancient Greece presents a formidable challenge to the writer of nonfiction for young readers. The history of the games spans a thousand years and enfolds the politics, art, and religion of a large empire. Although many of the sports of ancient Greece have modern-day analogues, the cultural context surrounding those sports is vastly different from the experiences of a modern reader. In order to participate imaginatively in an ancient Olympiad, the reader must be made to understand the significance of the Olympic Games in ancient Greek culture. Glubok and Tamarin have addressed this challenge in part through the device of structure: The book is divided into five main parts, each describing one day of an ideal Greek Olympiad. The focus of each section is on the sports played on that day. This way of organizing the text provides a concrete and easy-to-understand overview of the information. It also allows the authors to create a sense of immediacy, as they note the bright colors of the chariots, the bitter smell of burning sacrifices, and the glistening sun reflected on hundreds of eager faces. Readers feel that they are witnessing the events of the festival as they happen.
The authors convey the historical and cultural context of the ancient world with ingenuity. Information about religious beliefs and historical events that affected the development and execution of the games is imparted through lively...
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Shirley Glubok, both individually and in her joint works with husband Alfred Tamarin, is noted for her consistent ability to distill intellectual rigor and scholarly authority into an appealing and easily understood text for young people. Always readable, clear, and lively, her books do not oversimplify their subject matter or employ faddish gimmicks in their presentation of information. These qualities have earned for her books numerous awards and citations as well as inclusion on prestigious professional bibliographies such as the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults.
Like Glubok’s many other works of nonfiction, Olympic Games in Ancient Greece shows how art reflects the history and values of its culture. Unlike her books about art history, such as the series beginning with The Art of Ancient Egypt (1962), it emphasizes a particular ritual of a society and uses art exclusively as illustrative material rather than as a focus of the text itself. Unique to this work, too, is the device of presenting information in a dramatized form.
Olympic Games in Ancient Greece is an extensive account of the ancient games for young readers. Before its publication, no other treatment of this topic had attempted its comprehensive approach to the artistic, historical, and cultural context of the ancient sports. In years when the Olympics are held, demand for this title typically increases, according to the publishers. With the timeless appeal of sports as its focus and the added impetus of the interest created by modern-day Olympiads, Olympic Games in Ancient Greece is likely to remain a widely read classic of nonfiction for children and young adults.