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The Apprentice's Masterpiece: A Story of Medieval Spain Paperback – September 1, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up—In this novel set in 15th-century Spain at the time of the Inquisition, prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance destroy the peaceful coexistence of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The effects of this dismal history are dramatized in this story of two teens—Ramon, a Converso or converted Jew, and Amir, a Muslim who has been brought as a slave to Ramon's family. Written in prose poetry, the story's focus shifts from Ramon to Amir and then back to Ramon. Amir is treated by the Benvenistes as another son, making Ramon jealous and straining the relationship between them. Each teen has to make compromises in order to survive, and Ramon's choice estranges him from his father. Both protagonists demonstrate their courage as they struggle against the mortal danger in which they are placed. This riveting story is peopled by flesh-and-blood characters and replete with horrific historical detail. The challenging format renders it most appropriate for strong readers. This selection would be a good companion to Alice Hoffman's Incantation (Little, Brown, 2006) and Kathryn Lasky's Blood Secret (HarperCollins, 2004).—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
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.
The subject and the history are enthralling (the lives of secret Jews and Muslims at the time of the Spanish Inquisition in the late fifteenth century) in this tale of Ramon, 15, whose family members are conversos (Jews forced to convert to Christianity); and Amir, born Muslim, also forced to give up his faith, and taken in by Ramon’s family. Told in the first-person, free-verse narratives of the young men, the story depicts the horrifying atrocities committed in the name of Christianity––people burned alive, tortured, beheaded. At first Ramon is jealous of Amir, but in the end, the boys save each other. Unfortunately, it all goes on too long, and the repetitive personal details overwhelm the drama of betrayal and loyalty. What will hold readers are the facts of daily life: what it was like to be young when there were spies everywhere, looking for “secret Jews, and heretics / Such monsters must burn.” Grades 10-12. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Told in verse, The Apprentice's Masterpiece is a story that should transport readers to a time period unlike their own. I, however, found myself bored most of the time. Part of the reason is probably because of my unfamiliarity with 15th century Spain. Initially, I thought this novel would be a great way to learn about the time. Not too mention, the summary sounded promising. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent, that without a clear background, I would not feel fully transported to the time period. Melanie Little provides readers with a prologue, so they will know about the time, but personally the prologue just was not enough.
One of the most bothersome parts about the book was knowing that if the story was not in verse, I would have enjoyed it so much more. I mean the parts that were not in verse (the prologue, epilogue) were good enough. While verse may work for Lisa Schroeder's books, Little's story of the Spanish Inquisition requires so much more explanation and depth, which verse simply does not provide. Despite my complaints, however, The Apprentice's Masterpiece did have some highlights. My favorite parts involved Ramon's Christian girlfriend (for lack of a better word). I also liked how Little switched the story from Ramon to Amir and back to Ramon. The novel shows evidence that Little is a talented writer, but for me, the verse just did not work. Also, I feel that if I knew more about the Spanish Inquisition, I would have enjoyed the story more.
The Apprentice's Masterpiece will appeal to readers who enjoy learning about the Spanish Inquisition.