A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book doesn't flinch from the excesses of the Inquisition era. It describes grisly, gruesome violence against men and women, young and old. But through this powerful story, teens learn about an important time in history and may be inspired to think about and discuss the cost of religious intolerance and hatred. Readers will appreciate Estrella's discovery of who she really is, her fight for survival, and her instructions that others not forget her story.
What's the story?
Estrella lives a comfortable life as a Catholic in Spain around 1500, the era of the Inquisition. She and her best friend, Catalina, are as close as can be, her brother is studying to be a priest, and her grandfather is a respected teacher. The anti-Jewish riots that sweep through her town barely touch her life at all. But then two events change everything. She discovers that her family are Marranos, Jews who pretend to be Christians while secretly holding on to their faith. And she falls in love with Catalina's cousin, Andres, which turns Catalina against her. In 1500s Spain, Catalina has an easy weapon for revenge, and she doesn't hesitate to use it. But even she is shocked by the life-destroying results.
Is it any good?
This book is not long, and the reading level is accessible to 10-year-olds, but the author does not flinch from matter-of-factly depicting the hate-filled violence of which humans are capable. There are parents who believe children should face the horrors of the world head-on, and those who believe children should be shielded from them; if you are the second type, you do not want your children to read this book.
As her family is rounded up by the Inquisition, Estrella witnesses torments that are almost be beyond belief. In our era of growing worldwide religious tension, this book reminds us of the extremes to which religious intolerance and hatred can so easily lead. But that doesn't make it any easier to read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of historical fiction. How is reading a story like this different than reading a history textbook? Why is it important to read books like this? Can looking at history impact the present -- or shape the future?
This book describes some gruesome events. While historically accurate, it may be hard to read about them. What do you think of the violence level in this book? Is it different to read about violence than it is to see it in movies or experience it in video games? How so?
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