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

Review

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

Literary merit aside, parents would still swarm bookstore shelves in search of Adam Gidwitz's fifth bestseller. After all, what socially conscious parent wouldn't want their child devouring this saga of three magical, refreshingly diverse tweens and their holy dog?

"Plenty of children's novels blend past --- and present --- injustices with adventure and fantasy. Yet few novels balance somber tragedy and sidesplitting misadventures with the grace of Adam Gidwitz."

Lucky for us, THE INQUISITOR'S TALE has a whole lot more going for it than diverse protagonists. When the secret of her psychic visions erupts into village gossip, peasant girl Jean must flee weasel-faced knights and a murderous monk, her resurrected greyhound on close her heels. Enter Jacob, a Jewish boy still reeling from the destruction of his village, and William, a biracial young monk endowed with a gigantic stature and superhuman strength. As the trio journeys through France, they confront farting dragons and assassins, a forest swarming with foul fiends and the burning of Jewish Holy Books. Even amid the classism, anti-Semitism, and racism of the twelfth-century, this peasant, Jew and Saracen will stop at nothing in their quest for belonging.

Plenty of children's novels blend past --- and present --- injustices with adventure and fantasy. Yet few novels balance somber tragedy and sidesplitting misadventures with the grace of Adam Gidwitz. Jean, Jacob, and William might romp through haunted forests, swarming marketplaces, and the royal palace, but their overarching problems of loss and isolation unify an episodic plot. And while it's Jean, Jacob, and William's miraculous powers that enrage the French King, the kids' personalities develop far beyond psychic visions, spectacular healings, and superhuman strength.  You can count on Hatem Aly's whimsical illustrations to keep you grinning through tragedy.

Although understated prose keeps the story accessible to young readers, Gidwitz's precise word choice blesses THE INQUISITOR'S TALE with a hint of sophistication. And by telling the children's saga through a mile-wide spectrum of narrators, he immerses readers in a rich panorama of medieval life.

I embrace diversity, and I embrace books that embrace diversity. That being said, Gidwitz's epic can veer into preachiness, and his blind faith in humanity can blur into naivety. In the twelfth-century France of Gidwitz's imagination, acceptance gets flung around like confetti and minds swing open like revolving doors.

So pick up a copy of THE INQUISITOR'S TALE and treat yourself to 337 pages with the best version of human kind.

Reviewed by Alison Stewart on October 24, 2016

The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
by Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly