Dutton Children’s Books ISBN 9780525426165
YA Grades 4-8 Rating: 4
The Inquisitor’s Tale centers around three children: Jeanne, William, and Jacob. These adventurers have been joined by circumstances and forged together by resolve. Along with a dog named Gwenforte, they are on a mission to stop the King of France. The time is the 13th century, and superstition and suspicion are rife. During their adventure, the children find that purported enemies are friends and some posing as friends are truly enemies. There are intrigue, excitement, danger, a good story, and a few twists and turns along the way. The children also find that not exactly fitting in may not be the worst thing in the world–and that being different is what helps you stand out and make a difference.
Adam Gidwitz has written a tale with several likable characters. His research into the 13th century aids in placing this fictional story into its presumed historical context. There is a section in the back that shows the source of his inspiration for some of the characters in the story. The illustrations by Hatem Aly aid the reader in visualizing what is occurring in the story. The story teaches while remaining a story. This is both its great achievement and also its danger.
The book touches upon the issue of Christian-Jewish relations in the medieval period. This can be seen in the attempt in the book by the authorities to burn copies of the Jewish Talmud. It can also be observed in some of the statements by characters and the author about whom God will save. The reader will likely be thinking through their response to issues that occur in the story much as the characters do. Overall, this book was enjoyable and recommended for those who like adventure with a solid dash of history.
Michael Wilhelm, CLJ