• Review
By – January 13, 2012
When the Jews of Tisza-Eszlar are accused of killing a young ser­vant girl in order to use her blood as part of the Passover rit­u­al, a Jew­ish boy, Mor­ris Scharf, is coerced into becom­ing the pup­pet” wit­ness, accus­ing his father and the butch­er of the heinous crime. Julie, a poor vil­lage girl, works as a ser­vant in the town jail and obtains valu­able infor­ma­tion that could exon­er­ate the Jews dur­ing the court tri­al. But can Julie dis­obey her abu­sive father and stand up against the vir­u­lent anti-Semi­tism preva­lent in her com­mu­ni­ty to speak out for the Jews? The last blood libel tri­al in Europe is fic­tion­al­ized in this com­pelling and pow­er­ful nov­el. How­ev­er, the lack of back­ground infor­ma­tion on the his­to­ry of anti-Semi­tism and the blood libel cas­es might be con­fus­ing and mis­lead­ing to some read­ers. Read­ers also might not under­stand the actions and deci­sions of Mor­ris Scharf and how he was so eas­i­ly brain­washed against his fam­i­ly and his reli­gion. Addi­tion­al­ly, read­ers may have dif­fi­cul­ty com­pre­hend­ing the absolute cru­el­ty and dis­dain of Julie’s father — he steals her mea­ger wages, gives her dead mother’s shawl to his new girl­friend, sends his younger daugh­ter away to hate­ful rel­a­tives, and ver­bal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly abus­es her. Nonethe­less, in the con­text of a class­room or book club set­ting, this would make for a very inter­est­ing and thought pro­vok­ing dis­cus­sion. On its own, it is best intend­ed for knowl­edge­able and sophis­ti­cat­ed read­ers. Ages 11 – 14.

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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