Thursday, February 25, 2010
Secret Shofar of Barcelona by Jacqueline Dembar Greene, illustrated by Doug Chayka, reviewed by Freaky
Jacket summary: In the late 1500's while Don Fernando, conductor of the Royal Orchestra of Barcelona, prepares for a concert to celebrate Spain's colonies in the New World, his son Rafael secretly practices playing the shofar for the Jews who must hide their faith from the Inquisition, to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Rosh Hashanah is a long way off (September), but I don't want to hang onto this book without reviewing it until then. I love reading tales about the conversos - Jews who practiced their faith in secret during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. I also, like many kids, like to hear about people 'putting one over' on those in power who are being unfair.
That is not to make light of the danger faced by the main characters - the anxiety is conveyed well without becoming too heavy for children, as Rafael and his father make plans to hide the blowing of the shofar in plain sight. Reading this book together with your little one can provide an opening for discussions about anything from religious persecution, to the colonization of the New World, to different types of instruments.
For older readers interested in the story of the conversos, I highly recommend Blood Secret by Kathryn Lasky. Set in my home state, it travels back and forth through various points in time from the Inquisition to the present day. One of Lasky's best!