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.