Stories about outsiders have always been popular in children’s literature. This book of historical fiction takes us back to the 11th century where two outcasts — one Catholic, the other Jewish — are brought together through a series of violent events. It is the time of the first Crusade, where marauding bands of hooligans are attacking helpless Jewish communities along the Rhine. It is a time when the type of people who believe that Jews have horns on their heads allow rampant looting, rape, and murder within their communities. Anna, a motherless Catholic girl, risks everything to rescue Leah, whose only connection to her slaughtered Jewish family is a silver cup. After some unease and misunderstanding, they forge an unexpected friendship. The author has done excellent research into the time period. She paints a convincing picture of village and town life in 1096. She uses historical details about food (skinning eels!), housing, clothing, herbal medicine, and transportation as an integral part of the narrative. Although there are a few places where judicious cutting would have been helpful, this book has a fastpaced plot, with some believable characters and convincing details. Ages 12 – 14.
Anne Dublin is the teacher-librarian at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, Canada and an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. Her latest book is June Callwood: A Life of Action (Second Story Press, 2006).