Review of The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

gidwitz_inquisitors-talestar2 The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
by Adam Gidwitz; illus. by Hatem Aly
Middle School, High School    Dutton    365 pp.
9/16    978-0-525-42616-5    $17.99    g

An ambitious mash-up of medieval saints’ lives, the Joan of Arc legend, thirteenth-century French history, and elements of The Canterbury Tales, Gidwitz’s hopeful story of interreligious understanding is more fantasy than historical fiction. Three children with marvelous abilities band together and draw the ire of King Louis IX. Peasant Jeanne has visions of the future; William, illegitimate son of a crusader knight and an African “Saracen,” has supernatural strength; Jacob, a learned Jewish boy, has healing powers. Together they try to thwart King Louis’s plan to burn all the Jewish texts in France, and thus the trio becomes the object of a countrywide hunt. Drinking together at an inn, an inquisitor, nun, Jewish butcher, jongleur, and several others relate the bits of the children’s adventure they know — a series of “tales” that make a single narrative. The historical improbabilities of the story are many (and seemingly intentional), but its qualities as miracle tale tip readers to its fantastical nature (witness the episode of “the dragon with deadly farts”). Gidwitz presents moral issues that are currently relevant, and gives several theological arguments about good and evil a brisk, accessible airing. Scatological humor, serious matter, colloquial present-day language, the ideal of diversity and mutual understanding — this has it all.

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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