Editorial Review

School Library Journal

Cover: The Boy from Seville

Manuel, 11, and his family are conversos—Jews who have nominally converted to Christianity—in 17th-century Spain. They have fled harsh discrimination in Portugal, but their lives are still shrouded in fear and suspi-cion. When Manuel’s teacher intercedes, the boy is allowed to join a group who polices the neighborhood looking for Jews, and who previously bullied him. This helps to cement the family’s Christian facade, but endangers them by exposing their home to hostile outsiders. Manuel has a crush on his neighbor Violanti, and he is relieved to learn that she is a converso, too, so now he can share his secret with her. When interfaith love leads to the impris-onment of Violanti’s older sister and the execution of her husband, Manuel’s family flees again, this time to relig-iously liberal Amsterdam. The Inquisition can be a dramatic setting for historical fiction, and Katz’s pen-and-ink illustrations heighten the drama, but this story is dragged down by extensive historical detail that interferes with the narrative flow, and the horrors of the period are presented in stilted dialogue. Character development and a dra-matic plotline do not take shape until well into the book, and conflicts are too neatly and quickly resolved. Alice Hoffman’s Incantation (Little, Brown, 2006) and Kathryn Lasky’s Blood Secret (HarperCollins, 2004) are far more absorbing.

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