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Incantation Paperback – October 1, 2007

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316154288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316154284
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 4.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—Alice Hoffman's historical novel (Little, Brown, 2006) is brought to life compellingly in Jenna Lamia's subtly accented reading. At the dawn of the 16th century, Spain's Jews have fled, been restricted to ghettoes, or converted to Christianity in order to live openly in Spanish society. Estrella's family has lived in her village for 500 years and is, as far as the 16-year-old knows, like all her neighbors and her best friend, fervently Catholic. In fact, however, they are hidden Jews, and Estrella realizes this only weeks before it occurs to the townspeople. Hoffman describes with accuracy, but without undue manipulation, the devastation of Estrella's family through torture and murder, her confrontation of the truths about her supposed friend and her neighbors, and her newly found and embraced identity. An interesting love story adds an unusual element to the novel. An excellent choice for curriculum support as well as for casual listeners.—Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Growing up in Spain around 1500 in the village where her family has lived for 500 years, Estrella, 16, knows that there are secrets in her home. As books are burned in the streets, and Jews from the nearby ghetto are murdered, she confronts the reality that she is a Marrano, part of a community of underground Jews who attend a special "church." The plot tangent involving Estrella's best friend, Catalina, jealous because Estrella has taken her boyfriend, seems too purposeful, but the historical fact is compelling, with the reason for the secrets spelled out in the horrifying persecution: Estrella is witness to her mother's burning and her brother's bones being broken by the police "one at a time." Acclaimed adult writer Hoffman, whose YA books include Aquamarine (2001), makes the history immediate in Estrella's spare, intense first-person narrative, in which tension builds as Estrella's discovers her hidden identity. Suggest Deborah Siegel's The Cross by Day, the Mezuzzah by Night (1999) or June Weltman's Mystery of the Missing Candlestick (2004) to readers wanting other stories about Marranos. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of eighteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Her advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman (Women's Cancer) Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, Skylight Confessions, a novel about one family's secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Her first novel. Her most recent novel is The Story Sisters (2009), published by Shaye Areheart Books.

Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay "Independence Day" a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Customer Reviews

It is so well written.
K. Sanders
When Estrella falls in love with Andres, Catalina turns in Estrella's family to the Spanish government.
Mrs. Wilson-Tucker's Reading Classes
I admit I am a huge Alice Hoffman fan...have read all her books and just love her writing.
herb lady

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Jewish Book World Magazine on October 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The burning of Jewish books in the town square is the first portent that life for sixteen-year-old Estrella is going to change. Set in Spain during the Middle Ages, the story is about secrets and self-knowledge. Estrella's family are Conversos, who practice Judaism in secret at home and in a church where all of the congregation plus the priest are like themselves. As the persecution of Jews draws ever closer to Estrella's own family, she is told about their secret, given a ring to buy herself safe passage to Amsterdam if need be, and taught the rudiments of kabbalah by her learned grandfather. This unlikely act is undoubtedly a gesture toward the current popularity of kabbalah and it does little to mar the credibility of the plot, consisting only of a few "kabbalistic" customs like wearing a red thread and learning the names of the ten gates of Paradise. More central to the story is Estrella/Esther's development from a carefree girl to a young woman fated to pass on her family's heritage virtually alone. As in other of Hoffman's books, nature and magic are intertwined. Estrella's mother is a dyer and a healer; her grandfather is a surgeon and a scholar. The witchcraft of which they are accused is practical magic, the kind that works not through the supernatural but through knowledge heightened by insight. Throughout the book, Estrella's mother teaches her about the natural world and how humans use it for good or evil. At the conclusion, after some horrific scenes of torture and burnings, she flees, having learned that "a Jew can never be attached to a place...We cannot have roots in the earth of any country, only in the garden that we carry inside us.Read more ›
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on January 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"A monster is hard to see and even harder to kill. It takes time to grow so huge, time to crawl up into the open air. People will tell you it's not there; you're imagining things. But a book is a book. Pages are pages. Hawks are hawks. Doves are doves. Hatred is always hatred."

Estrella is Esther and her family is Marrano, caught during the Spanish Inquisition when Spanish Jews hid their heritage camouflaged as Spanish Catholics. Sixteen-year-old Estrella knows nothing of evils or monsters, nor is she aware that anyone can suddenly become an outcast. Estrella's life is full of hope and dreams of a happy future with her best friend, Catalina. Both girls have black hair and look so much alike. Catalina is the Crow and Estrella is the Raven, and the two plan, as sisters might, for the day when they will raise their children as friends. They know each other so well --- until the day the monster is brought to life in the town square.

The day soldiers come into the plaza and publicly burn a rabbi's books is the day the town is poisoned. It becomes dangerous and full of fearful hate, the hate often used as protection. The soldiers reward those who turn against neighbors as they uncover the Conversos, who practice Judaism at home and in a church with a congregation of other Conversos. A mere accusation would suffice and seal the guilt; the accused would suffer unimaginable punishment and humiliation.

For most of Estrella's life she is unaware of her family's true identity --- their greatest secret. Estrella never questions her private name (Esther), family traditions such as lighting candles before dinner and not eating pork, or her grandfather being a teacher. But Catalina does notice that Estrella always makes the sign of the cross backwards.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on November 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"I am someone

I never would have imagined.

A secret.

A dream...

body and soul..."

Growing up in the small village of Encaleflora, Spain, Estrella deMadrigal is aware of the Spanish Inquisition but believes it has little to do with her. She and her family attend one of the Catholic churches in town and her brother is studying to be a priest. However, Estrella is forced to face the brutal reality of the Inquisition as Jews from the ghetto are murdered and she discovers her own family's secrets--they are Marranos, a community of Jews who public profess to Roman Catholicism while secretly practicing their Judaism and Kabbalah at home.

Shortly after this momentous discovery, her family's secrets are made public and Estrella confronts a world she's never imagined, where neighbors turn on each other, where friendship ends in flame, and where betrayal has tragic and bitter consequences. To create a future for her family, Estrella must reach deep within herself and find sources of strength to craft a new reality.

Incantation, Alice Hoffman's newest novel for young adults, introduces readers to a turbulent period in European history through the eyes of 16-year-old Estrella.

Estrella enjoys spending time with her best friend Catalina, believing that their destiny is to marry and live next door to each other. "We thought we knew exactly what our lives were made of: still water, not a moving river."

Fate, however, has different plans for Estrella and Catalina. In 1478, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition in a bid to maintain Catholicism in their kingdoms and in 1500 the Inquisition arrived in Encaleflora and snared Estrella and her family in its trap.
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