Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dateline: Troy by Paul Fleischman

I must admit that as a high school student or as an adult, I have not had any interest in the Trojan War.  Paul Fleischman shows his tremendous talent once again with Dateline: Troy.  He juxtaposes his retelling of the war with newspaper clippings of modern events.  He is able to illustrate the parallels of the world of Homer’s Iliad to our world today. 
After reading Weslandia, Seedfolks, Joyful Noise, and Bull Run I have come to appreciate the remarkable perspective Fleischman can portray through his work.  I couldn’t understand what would give him the idea to connect our modern events to the Trojan War.  Fleischman shares that he got the idea while reading the myth of Hercules to his children.  “When I came to the part in which he’s driven mad by a goddess and kills his wife and children, I was struck by how much the myth sounded like a contemporary newspaper headline.”  He also adds, “My best teachers in school were those who could take a seemingly remote topic and show its connection to my own life.  I’ve tried to do the same with Trojan Wars.”
I was amazed and shocked with the more current articles that he found that could parallel the events from 1200 B.C.  Right from the beginning, as Hecuba, queen of Troy had a nightmare.  Calchas was sent for and he reveals his interpretation of the dream.  “The child will bring fire and ruin upon Troy.  There’s but one action.”  On the opposite page there is a newspaper clipping from May of 1988 with headlines, Reagans use astrology, aides confirm.  There is without a doubt many controversial issues brought up through these newspaper clippings; Newborn Found in a Dumpster, Studies on Beauty Raise a Number of Ugly Findings, In Search of Daniel A mother finds the son she gave away, Attract the Opposite Sex with secret Signals, Bush declares this Sunday to be a day of Prayer, War Protester Burns Herself to Death Here, When a Homeboy Dies, Japan Admits WWII Use of Sex Slaves, No One Rests in Peace, & The Human Cost of War. The range of these clippings is from 1950-1992.  I cannot even imagine the amount of time it would take to do this research and collect the perfect article to parallel the event in history.
Without a doubt, after reading this book and the parallel articles or headlines, one must stop and think.  The collage format behind the articles adds to the articles.  I was struck by the photo of a grieving widow in a Denver cemetery on Memorial Day 1984 as she was grieving holding on to the tombstone.  There is a pressed dried flower in the top right corner and a pedal from the flower three-fourths of the way down bordering the right side.  The article reads, “The Glory and the Waste.”  The reader can feel this loss. 
Many informational books will provide the sources of where they get their information.  I did not see that information in this book.  However, I searched the Trojan War and found the same events. 
This book is certainly clever and without a doubt would engage those children that are reluctant to learn about the Trojan War.  However, one must be prepared to have some courageous conversations about the realities of our world. 


  1. Definitely a clever book. And you are right on the money when you said that children who normal would stay clear of such information will be drawn to this book. It's so unique in the message it provides readers.

  2. It was interesting to find out Fleischman's inspiration for writing this book. In an interview with Fleischman at a link from
    he describes how long it took to complete his research. The newspaper clippings chosen definitely can be controversial and lead to much discussion in the classroom.