Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Inquisitor's Tale - Adam Gidwitz, Illustrated by Hatem Aly

Summary: An exciting and hilarious medieval adventure from the bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm. You can read our review here. 

1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, where all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints. 

Join William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne's loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. Told in multiple voices, in a style reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, our narrator collects their stories and the saga of these three unlikely allies begins to come together. 

Beloved bestselling author Adam Gidwitz makes his long awaited return with his first new world since his hilarious and critically acclaimed Grimm series. Featuring manuscript illuminations throughout by illustrator Hatem Aly and filled with Adam’s trademark style and humor, The Inquisitor's Tale is bold storytelling that’s richly researched and adventure-packed.

Beautifully illustrated throughout! Includes a detailed historical note and bibliography. (Summary and pic from

My Review: The March reading selection for my book club was a Newbery Honor book from 1969, and let me just say that things have certainly changed. This particular book, Across Five Aprils, was a decent read--better than some early Newberys I've read--but it just doesn't hold a candle to the Newbery winners and honor books that are coming out now. Maybe I'm partial to modern writing (which is certainly true), but I just think that the genre has become quite incredible. The writing is stellar, the stories are touching and poignant, and they have more meaning and depth than they ever have. While there have been improvements in other genres (and some downgrades, too, IMHO), I think that JFic has just soared. Some of the best authors come from the JFic genre, and I just love what is coming out of there.

The Inquisitor's Tale was amazing. Seriously, it was hilarious, well-written, a fun story, well-researched, and the pictures were awesome, too. I dare say that I liked this book even better than the winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which I reviewed just a little while ago. I'm never sure what to expect from JFic, which is one of the things I like about it. Would it be a whimsical reality book about real issues that kids are facing like divorce or bullies or a sick/dying family member? Would it be fantastical and allegorical? Would it be a historical fiction piece with kids doing amazing things during Big Historical Times when the adults were otherwise engaged? Seriously, there's always something fun or amazing. I am happy to report that this book was a fun dive into some fairytale-esque historical goings on from real historical writings. There were several things that I really enjoyed about this book:

1. I loved the way it was told. Each chapter is told by a different narrator, although many of the narrators take more than one turn. The gig is that they're in a bar in the middle ages (NOT the dark ages, according to the author), and they're taking turns telling stories about these amazing children and their sainted dog. This way of storytelling is a very natural way of getting different viewpoints and different parts of the story, all joined together by a main narrator whose identity we don't find out until the end.

2. This book is funny. Like really funny. It's funny to adults and it's also funny to kids, including things like a dragon who has epic gas and stinky cheese and all sorts of things kids find hilarious.

3. I liked the artwork. I felt like it really added to the story and gave it a very middle ages feel. When I think about this book I think of the art work and the picture it painted for me.

4. I loved the relationships between the children and the dog and the people they encountered. I think Gidwitz did a great job of making these children seem like real kids while also preserving their remarkable abilities.

5. The book just had some really fun stories in it and I loved that they were based on real historical writings. The research had obviously been done, and it was fun to read Gidwitz's impression of what had happened in these somewhat strange and mystical writings.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It was well-written and a lot of fun and just a really good read. I think my kids will love it and I'm excited to share it with them. It is highly deserving of the Newbery Honor Award.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some potty humor and mild language, but I will be fine showing it to my 11- and 9-year-old sons.

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