The Boy from Seville

Dorit Orgad; Avi Katz, illus.; Son­dra Sil­ver­ston, trans.

  • Review
By – December 12, 2011

Manuel, an 11-year-old boy, and his fam­i­ly fled to Spain from Por­tu­gal to escape the Inqui­si­tion as con­ver­sos. Manuel tries to guard his family’s secret, but finds it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult as he is recruit­ed by a gang to spy on his next door neigh­bor. Manuel is attract­ed to the girl who lives next door even before he finds out that she is also a con­ver­so. Manuel’s father is a doc­tor who saves many peo­ple in Seville when the Black Death strikes, but he and his fam­i­ly are still accused of being secret Jews.

This sus­pense­ful nov­el gives a grit­ty look at life in Spain dur­ing the Inqui­si­tion. The author graph­i­cal­ly describes an auto-de- fe where Violante’s (Manuel’s neigh­bor) broth­er-in-law is first tor­tured and then burned at the stake for prac­tic­ing Judaism. The action is non-stop and the sus­pense builds through­out the book as Manuel nar­row­ly escapes dis­cov­ery time after time.

Despite the excit­ing plot, the sto­ry is uneven­ly trans­lat­ed with sev­er­al awk­ward sen­tences and too lib­er­al use of rhetor­i­cal ques­tions. The explic­it vio­lence, although an accu­rate por­tray­al of a dif­fi­cult time, makes this book suit­able only for old­er chil­dren. Ages 13 – 15.

Susan Dubin was the first librar­i­an hon­ored with a Milken Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion Jew­ish Edu­ca­tor Award. She is the owner/​director of Off-the-Shelf Library Ser­vices and library instruc­tion­al con­sul­tant at Val­ley Beth Shalom Day School in Enci­no, CA.

Discussion Questions