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Puppet [Kindle Edition]

Eva Wiseman
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $9.95
Kindle Price: $7.69
You Save: $2.26 (23%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

A heartbreaking episode in history, explained through the story of a young servant girl in the late 1800s.

The year is 1882. A young servant girl named Esther disappears from a small Hungarian village. Several Jewish men from the village of Tisza Eszvar face the ‘blood libel’ — the centuries-old calumny that Jews murder Christian children for their blood. A fourteen-year-old Jewish boy named Morris Scharf becomes the star witness of corrupt authorities who coerce him into testifying against his fellow Jews, including his own father, at the trial.

This powerful fictionalized account of one of the last blood libel trial in Europe is told through the eyes of Julie, a friend of the murdered Esther, and a servant at the jail where Morris is imprisoned. Julie is no stranger to suffering herself. An abused child, when her mother dies her alcoholic father separates her from her beloved baby sister. Julie and Morris, bound by the tragedy of the times, become unlikely allies. Although Puppet is a novel, it is based upon a real court case that took place in Hungary in 1883. In Hungary today, the name Morris Scharf has become synonymous with “traitor.”

Once again, Eva Wiseman illuminates a heartbreaking episode in history for young readers.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–9—The theme of anti-Semitism is at the center of this novel set during the Hungarian blood libel trial in 1883. Poverty, despair, and grueling physical work make up the lives of the adults and children in the village of Tisza-Eszlar, where the Jewish and Christian communities are segregated yet intertwined in daily business. Julie, a Christian teen, works as a servant in the local jailhouse and is concerned about her friend Esther, a poorly treated maid. When she disappears, her crazed mother claims that the rabbi and the kosher butcher killed her daughter for her blood to make matzoh for the upcoming Passover holiday. The ills of religious superstition, prejudice, and false accusations are told from a first-person perspective through Julie. Witnesses are produced, including Morris Scharf, the young son of the accused rabbi. Morris, like a puppet, is manipulated and coerced into falsely making claims of watching the alleged crime, until Esther's drowned body is discovered in the village's river with no physical evidence of her death by a slaughterer's knife. Taking her cues from the actual trial transcripts, Wiseman develops a dialogue-driven account ranging from emotional hysteria to serene justice. And while the crux of this event revolves around the trial, Julie's personal struggle with her own abusive father detracts from the realistic drama unfolding for the real victims in the case. Still this is a plausible retelling of a little-known episode in the long history of anti-Semitism.—Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Times are hard in Julie Vamosi’s Hungarian village in the late nineteenth century, and the townspeople, including her father, blame the Jews. After Julie’s best friend, Esther, a young servant-girl, disappears, the rumor spreads that the Jews cut her throat and drained her blood to drink with their Passover matzos. The townspeople even beat a terrified Jewish kid, Morris, and force him to lie and say that he witnessed the ritual murder in the synagogue and that his own father took part. “Kill the Jews” is the mob's subsequent cry. Then Esther’s drowned body is found in a stream, and there is no sign of any violence. Is Julie brave enough to face the mob with the truth? Will the court listen? Based on the records of a trial in 1883, this searing novel dramatizes virulent anti-Semitism from the viewpoint of a Christian child. There is some contrivance as Julie eavesdrops on the townspeople’s plots and sees Morris beaten to “confess.” But her first-person narrative reveals good and bad people on all sides, including her own brutal dad, the kind Jewish doctor, and the sympathetic defense lawyer. The tension builds to the trial scenes, and the climax is electrifying with its public drama on the witness stand and the heartbreak between Morris and his dad. Adults will want this, too. Grades 7-12. --Hazel Rochman

Product Details

  • File Size: 2459 KB
  • Print Length: 254 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1770492968
  • Publisher: Tundra Books; 1 edition (April 16, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031TZBME
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,523,240 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Reason for Reading: Many reasons: this is set within my preferred historical era, I enjoy Jewish history, I enjoy 19th century court/trial cases and finally I've read and enjoyed this author before.

Throughout time immemorial until the not so distant past, parents have kept children under control with stories of monsters, evils or persons who enjoy kidnapping and eating children. When I was young the remnant of this survived in the story of the "Bogeyman". This is a sad and horrific story where that fabled evil turned onto a real group of people in a small town in Hungary when a scapegoat was wanted and the villagers turned with a vengeance a mass racism towards the Jews to explain the disappearance of a local Christian girl.

A riveting, spellbinding story based on a true case. One can hardly believe that such mass hysteria can turn once seemingly placid people into violent racists. The author has extensively made use of the actual trial records giving authenticity to the dialogue found within the book. While no one is innocent of bigotry in this story, we see how an initially small group of instigators easily rile up the masses and the methods they use to fuel the fire until it reaches epic proportions and everyone is beyond seeing reason. Examining this type of case can help one see how modern atrocities reach the frenzy they sometimes do.

A brilliant story, with a fantastic main character in the fictional Julie who though she sometimes has doubts, does see beyond the facade and triumphs even against great harm to herself. A page-turning book, as one keeps muttering to oneself how people could actually behave in this deplorable way (and still do) and yet the rays of hope shine through in Julie and a few other characters. A unique look at historical Jewish persecution, that is not about the Holocaust. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I have known that the Jewish people have been persecuted for millennia across the world. What I had not known previously, however, is the myth of the blood libel Jews were accused of at various times during history. In Puppet, Eva Wiseman does a wonderful job of shining the light on this terrible historical "secret."

Wiseman takes the true story of a blood libel trial in Hungary in the early 1880s and tells it through the eyes of a fictional witness of the events. A 14-year-old Christian servant girl disappears, and soon the townspeople decide to accuse the Jews in town of killing her to use her blood for Passover. To corroborate their story, they turn to Morris Scharf, a 14-year-old Jewish boy. They torture him physically and emotionally with promises of letting his father go free if Morris will testify against the Jews.

The story takes a while to get into, but it is truly worth it. For me, the mark of a good historical novel or nonfiction narrative is how much it encourages me to seek out additional information on the topic. I have found myself searching the internet for more information on blood libel accusations. And, I am happy to say, Eva Wiseman's research appears to be flawless.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched portrait of antisemitism June 27, 2012
By Meaghan
Format:Paperback
I got this book free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

An excellent Jewish historical fiction, centered around a "blood libel" trial which occurred in Hungary in the 1880s. A local village girl, Esther, disappeared and the Jewish community was accused of killing her to use her blood for matzoh. One teenage Jewish boy, Morris Scharf (actually Moric; most of the names in the novel have been Anglicized), was suborned into falsely testifying against everyone else, including his own father.

The story is told from the point of view of a poor gentile girl named Julie, a friend of both Morris and the missing girl. As the housekeeper at the jail where all the accused Jewish people are locked up, she witnesses a great deal, and goes on to testify at the trial.

This book was very well done, especially in its characterization. Morris betrayed his entire community when life and death were at stake, but through Julie's eyes you see what pressure he was under and I think very few people would have had the courage to behave any differently. Even the accusers, most of them, are not demons, but only people deeply traumatized by Esther's disappearance and looking for someone to blame. There are heroes in the story, but they aren't perfect; they're scared, they're flawed, they have problems.

My only issue with the book is a fairly minor one: I think the foreshadowing as to Esther's true fate was a little too heavy. I knew at once what had become of her.

Highly recommended, especially for those interested in Jewish history and stories about prejudice. I had previously read a non-fiction account of the Kishinev progrom, Easter in Kishinev: Anatomy of a Pogrom, and "Puppet" was very well-researched.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Puppet September 11, 2009
Format:Hardcover
When the Jews of Tisza-Eszlar are accused of killing a young servant girl in order to use her blood as part of the Passover ritual, a Jewish boy, Morris Scharf, is coerced into becoming the "puppet" witness, accusing his father and the butcher of the heinous crime. Julie, a poor village girl, works as a servant in the town jail and obtains valuable information that could exonerate the Jews during the court trial. But can Julie disobey her abusive father and stand up against the virulent anti-Semitism prevalent in her community to speak out for the Jews? The last blood libel trial in Europe is fictionalized in this compelling and powerful novel. However, the lack of background information on the history of anti-Semitism and the blood libel cases might be confusing and misleading to some readers. Readers also might not understand the actions and decisions of Morris Scharf and how he was so easily brainwashed against his family and his religion. Additionally, readers may have difficulty comprehending the absolute cruelty and disdain of Julie's father - he steals her meager wages, gives her dead mother's shawl to his new girlfriend, sends his younger daughter away to hateful relatives, and verbally and emotionally abuses her. Nonetheless, in the context of a classroom or book club setting, this would make for a very interesting and thought provoking discussion. On its own, it is best intended for knowledgeable and sophisticated readers. Ages 11-14. Rachel Kamin
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