Blood Secret

Kathryn Lasky
  • Review
By – May 14, 2012

Jer­ry hasn’t spo­ken since her moth­er dis­ap­peared. The 14-year-old has been labeled with elec­tive mutism”, and has been bounced from children’s homes to fos­ter fam­i­lies until she is final­ly placed with her great-aunt in New Mex­i­co. After explor­ing the old fam­i­ly relics in her aunt’s base­ment, the strange objects there seem to call to her. Upon han­dling them, she some­how relives her family’s past his­to­ry and uncov­ers fam­i­ly secrets going back to the Span­ish Inqui­si­tion. She finds out that she is from a long line of secret Jews, which explains why her aunt lights can­dles and pre­pares a spe­cial meal on Fri­day evenings with­out mix­ing milk and meat. By uncov­er­ing these secrets Jer­ry also finds her voice and begins to speak again. 

While Lasky cre­ates an inter­est­ing and like­able char­ac­ter in Jer­ry, there is some con­fu­sion about how Jer­ry is able to dis­cov­er the sto­ries of her ances­tors. Is it a dream? Does she trav­el back in time? Do ghosts or spir­its tell her? Or, do the sto­ries just mag­i­cal­ly come to her? Addi­tion­al­ly, while the fam­i­ly tree in the back of the book is help­ful, the six dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tives from the past are dif­fi­cult to fol­low and it is hard to fig­ure out how they relate to each oth­er and to Jer­ry. Sev­er­al oth­er nov­els tell the sto­ry of the Secret Jews (Secrets in the House of Del­ga­do by Glo­ria Mik­lowitz and The Cross by Day, Mezuz­zah by Night by Deb­o­rah Siegel, for exam­ple); how­ev­er Lasky’s sto­ry attempts to bring the his­to­ry to the present day. Ages 12 and up. 

Rachel Kamin has been a syn­a­gogue librar­i­an and Jew­ish edu­ca­tor for over twen­ty-five years and has worked at North Sub­ur­ban Syn­a­gogue Beth El in High­land Park, IL since 2008, cur­rent­ly serv­ing as the Direc­tor of Life­long Learn­ing. A past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee and past edi­tor of Book Reviews for Chil­dren & Teens for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries News & Reviews, her arti­cles and book reviews appear in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions. She has been a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Library Association’s Sophie Brody Book Award Com­mit­tee since 2021.

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