For the past couple of weeks I've been reading, off and on, Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy by John R. Hale. I saw it on the new books shelf of my library; it fits in with our loose study of ancient history this quarter.
I read the first few chapters eagerly, thinking this would be great for my boy. There were a couple of vulgar sexual references in the introduction, but I figured he could skip that. I assigned him to read the first two chapters which were about Themistocles' plan for the Athenian navy, and the building of the trireme fleet. My boy loved it and it led to more research on the trireme ship.
I continued to read, partly for my own edification and partly to see if it would work for him. I was thinking I'd buy a copy to have around for him to read when he wanted to. And then, about a third of the way through, I just had to stop. For there is one paragraph that just ruins the book. It is just a paragraph, but the graphic sexual imagery in it makes it impossible for me to hand the book off to my 12-year-old, or to recommend it to anyone other than an adult. Actually, I'm not going to recommend it to anyone at all.
The paragraph added nothing to the book in terms of the history of the navy. I suppose it might be interesting to some, this bit of information about Greek culture. But it was completely unnecessary. And I understand that the book was written for adults, but it was very readable for my guy and would be for most middle- or high-schoolers with an interest in the topic. But, forget it. It's just not suitable.
It's really frustrating to find a book - a really well-written and interesting book - that has to be ruined like that. Finding good books for a middle-schooler is hard. The books in the kids' department are not detailed enough. The "young adult" area is mostly useless; the focus there is on supposed "teen interest" with loads of books on self-esteem, drug use, and dating problems, but not much in the way of academic subjects.
This seemed like a near-perfect book. What a disappointment, and what a waste.