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Grade 2–5—Don Fernando is a converso, a Jew who practices his religion secretly during the time of the Inquisition. He is also a respected composer, and he writes a symphony to celebrate Spain's colonies in the New World using Native American instruments. His son convinces him to include a shofar among the deer-toe rattles and leather drums so that the conversos can hear the traditional sound of the ram's horn on the Jewish New Year, which coincides with the concert. The dangerous plan proves successful: the Duke loves the symphony, and Spain's secret Jews retain an ancient tradition. Based on a legend, this intriguing slice of converso life offers a thoughtful hero and a suspenseful plot. The warm, opaque paintings are expressive and create a strong sense of place. Although the religious significance of the shofar is never explained, the story conveys its emotional pull for Jewish listeners. Themes of cultural identity and empowerment under oppression will appeal to readers of all backgrounds.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL END
In 1492, Spanish Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism or leave the country. This picture book retells a Barcelona legend of those who stayed but maintained their religion in secret: conversos. One such man, the composer Don Fernando, has written a new concert that he plans to perform for the Duke on the first night of Rosh Hashanah:“When we and our Jewish friends gather for a festive meal, it will appear we are only celebrating the concert.” Together with his son, Rafael, Don Fernando takes things one wildly dangerous step further by incorporating the call of the shofar into the piece. In a happily subversive ending, the Duke is so unwittingly enchanted by the boy playing the ram’s horn that he suggests an encore performance for the same time next year. Greene’s stately narrative softly raises the tension for the climactic concert and satisfying payoff, while Chayka’s dusky artwork transports viewers back among the conversos, imbuing scenes with a quiet sense dignity and determination. A handsome offering that’s equally educational and inspiring. Grades 1-3. --Ian Chipman
A compelling addition to children's Jewish history, and written to entertain and inform the adults who read this to their kids.Published 5 months ago by adnil
Great story that is relevant to Sephardic Jews and also to the former Soviet block Jews.Published 11 months ago by Tanya J. Feldberg
I have read the story of this event, and loved how it broke it down for my kids to understand their Sephardic heritage and being brave to do what is right.Published 12 months ago by Sephardic_N_VA
Unearthing a mystery or providing an explanation for something
that is unusual always sparks interest. Read more