Growing up in Toledo, Spain in the early 1490s, Isabel, a fourteen-year-old devout Catholic, has led a privileged life; she has her own personal Moorish slave that takes care of her every whim and she lives in a beautiful home. When her father, physician to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, urges her to marry Luis, the arrogant son of a respected old Catholic family, Isabel strongly protests until the dangerous secret of her past is revealed —her family members are Conversos, Jews who have been forced to convert to Christianity or die. Don Enrique and his wife fear for the safety of their daughter during the time of the Inquisition and, by encouraging a quick engagement, hope to protect her as well as dispel any suspicion that they are not devout Christians. In preparing for the wedding, Isabel is introduced to Yonah, the son of a Jewish silversmith, who has been hired to make an ornate centerpiece for the traditional betrothal meal. With no one to turn to, she confides in him about her Jewish identity and a special bond grows. Their easy friendship turns into a romance and Yonah urges Isabel to embrace her heritage by taking her to a secret Seder in the ghetto where she learns about some of the Jewish rituals. As the political situation escalates with an official edict for the expulsionof all the Jews in Toledo and the arrest of Isabel’s father who may be burned at the stake, Isabel realizes that she must take things into her own hands. With the help of Yonah, Isabel devises a risky plan that she hopes will free her father and lead the whole family to a new life. Told in first person through the eyes of Isabel, master storyteller Eva Wiseman skillfully weaves a tense and alluring novel that realistically depicts a turbulent time in Jewish history. Similar to Kathryn Lasky’s Blood Secret, this title would be a positive choice for upper elementary readers of historical fiction. Recommended for ages 11 and up.
Debra Gold has been a children’s librarian for over 20 years in the Cuyahoga County Public Library System. An active member of the ALA, she has served on many committees including the Caldecott, Newbery and Batchelder committees.