The Boy from Seville

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 5-7 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 suspicion. 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 imprisonment of Violanti's older sister and the execution of her husband, Manuel's family flees again, this time to religiously 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 dramatic 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.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

Kirkus Reviews
It is 17th-century Spain, the time of the Inquisition, and 11-year-old Manuel Nu-ez has just learned a shocking secret from his parents: They are Jews. Having fled Portugal, the family, nominally "New Christians," live in terrible fear that their true religious convictions, practiced in tightly guarded secrecy, will be discovered. The novel, translated from the original Hebrew, does a good job of capturing the time and the dread, though a lot of explanation slows the pace. Jews caught practicing their faith were subject to severe punishment or death by fire. Complicating matters is Manuel's growing bond with the mysterious girl next door; his Christian tutor's almost-love affair with Manuel's sister; and Manuel's feeling compelled to join a local gang to hide his identity. The story moves along and ends happily with the Nu-ez family escaping by sea to more tolerant Holland. Readers will feel the injustice of Manuel's and the other Jews' plight, but characterization isn't skillfully handled-some actors in the drama seem mere types-and dialogue and Manuel's first-person narration are clipped and often seem unrealistic. (Fiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580132534
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/28/2007
  • Series: Kar-Ben for Older Readers Series
  • Pages: 200
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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