The Inquisitor’s Tale

Adam Gid­witz; Hatem Aly, illus.

  • Review
By – January 4, 2017

By now, so much has been writ­ten about, and so many acco­lades have been award­ed to this excep­tion­al book, that it seems super­flu­ous to review” it, and yet, just as there is plea­sure in re-read­ing it, there is no harm in remind­ing those who have yet to pick it up that it is def­i­nite­ly time. Why so much praise? Because it is unique in mid­dle-grade children’s lit­er­a­ture. What oth­er book com­bines so many ele­ments for the ben­e­fit of nar­ra­tive, includ­ing a pro­gres­sion of sto­ry­tellers, fan­tas­ti­cal char­ac­ters, medieval his­to­ry, reli­gious intol­er­ance and a sacred quest, not to men­tion fire, quick­sand, holy relics, a saint­ly dog, fast-paced adven­ture, and lots of kid-friend­ly humor both goofy and gross. It is the Inquisi­tor who begins the tale, sit­ting down at an inn one night in the year 1242, seek­ing to learn the where­abouts of three chil­dren against whom King Louis XI has declared war. Like com­ic book super­heroes, each child is blessed with a pow­er: Jeanne, a peas­ant girl, has visions of the future; William, a bira­cial giant of a boy raised in a monastery, sum­mons super­hu­man strength; and Jacob, an orphaned Jew, pos­sess­es the gift of heal­ing. The three are pur­sued because of their shared cru­sade to res­cue a copy of the Tal­mud after the King, a Catholic, orders that all Jew­ish books be burned. Amidst all their escapades and encoun­ters with drag­ons, fiends, brig­ands and foes, it is the children’s com­mon belief in the right­ness of their deed that allows them to see beyond their dif­fer­ences and solid­i­fies their friend­ship. Rich in medieval his­to­ry and lore, as well as mean­ing­ful dis­course on reli­gious and racial intol­er­ance, this is a book that almost defies descrip­tion, but when author Adam Gid­witz was asked what kids like about it most, he answered, the adven­ture.” Includes an exten­sive Author’s Note, as well as dra­mat­ic illus­tra­tions in the style of an illus­trat­ed manuscript.

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 and up.

Teri Mark­son has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 18 years. She is cur­rent­ly the act­ing senior librar­i­an at the Val­ley Plaza Branch Library in North Hol­ly­wood, CA.

Discussion Questions