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Babylonne Hardcover – November 11, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—Faced with an arranged marriage to a senile old man as punishment for her rebellious ways, orphaned 16-year-old Babylonne escapes the clutches of her maternal aunt and heads out on her own. Although she is now disguised as a boy, Father Isadore recognizes her and claims to have known her biological father. She has no choice but to trust the priest. The two begin a journey through the treacherous 13th-century French countryside that turns into a pilgrimage for Babylonne, who comes to know about her deceased parents, her quiet traveling companion, and herself. While readers do learn something about life during the Middle Ages (e.g., the feudal system, struggle between religious factions, lack of power for women), the novel's strength is in its characters. The pacing is slow, but the story serves to introduce and develop the protagonist and the priest in anticipation of future books. Much of the discussion about religion will be lost on teens, but they will find Babylonne's (sometimes vulgar) inner dialogue hilarious. Fans of Jinks's Pagan Kidrouk, featured in four earlier novels, will enjoy this story.—Wendy Scalfaro, G. Ray Bodley High School Library, Fulton, NY
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From Booklist

Jinks continues her cycle of excellent historical novels. In this fifth volume, she introduces Babylonne, the out-of-wedlock daughter of her previous protagonist Pagan Kidrouk, the Christian Arab who has become Archdeacon of Carcassonne. The year is now 1227 and a desperate Babylonne is on the run from her grandmother, who plans to marry her off to an old man. Worse, the 16-year-old—a Cathar by religion—is terrified of the seemingly sinister Roman Catholic priest who is following her. Jinks’ fans will welcome this latest adventure, which culminates in a blood-curdling reenactment of the Siege of La Becede. Grades 8-12. --Michael Cart
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 570L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (November 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763636509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763636500
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,963,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Life is challenging in the 13th century, to say the least, what with war, disease and intolerance running rampant throughout Europe. However, 16-year-old Babylonne has an extra few trials to survive, like never having met her father, losing her beloved mother in one of the wars, and now having to live with her strict and abusive aunt and grandmother. And then it gets even worse --- they want to get rid of her by marrying her off to an old man who isn't quite right in the head.

Babylonne has had enough, so she decides to run away and join up with the noble knights. She will offer to cook and clean for them, and help them with their grand and gallant quests. For added safety, Babylonne chops off her hair and disguises herself as a young boy. But her future doesn't quite play out as she plans.

Almost immediately, she is cornered by a Catholic priest named Isidore who claims to have been a friend of her father's and wants to take her under his wing and protect her. First of all, Babylonne had been conditioned by her aunt and grandmother to believe that all Catholic priests are horrid and untrustworthy. Second, she also had been told that her father had raped her mother, so she is no fan of his either. To say the least, Babylonne has no interest in staying with Isidore. However, after further argument, she decides it could be safer traveling with a priest than by herself, and she can leave him at any time. So the two set out for their destination.

During the next few days, Babylonne starts realizing how misinformed she's been, how special her parents' relationship was, and how kind Isidore is.
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Format: Hardcover
BABYLONNE, by Catherine Jinks, is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl in early thirteenth-century Languedoc.

It is a time of war, persecution, and religious controversy. Jinks' knowledge of the era as a scholar lends a truth and vividness to the coming-of-age tale of a young, feisty girl in the middle of a war. She is able to paint everything from the sights, sounds, and smells of monasteries to the sights, sounds, and smells of wars and infirmaries inside besieged fortresses. Her writing is not for the weak of heart, or the weak of stomach in some places.

Babylonne is a young woman who has spent her life surrounded by bloodshed and abuse and has remained an independent thinker despite it all. She never knew her mother, a Good Christian, and never knew her father, an Arab-born Roman priest. She lives with her aunt and other women in a convent of sorts. As she is considered to be a child with no father, because her father was a Roman priest, she is mistreated and abused in many ways.

Finally, when she is going to be married off to a man who is so old that he sees everything as giant bouncing olives, she makes a run for it.

While Babylonne runs through her city, stolen goods in tow, she runs into a Roman priest, Isidore, whom she despises at first. Gradually, Isidore teaches her to trust and the differences between her faith and his faith come into question and are open for debate. Her original wish, to fight for the exiled lords against the French, comes into question as she learns what war really means. Babylonne's honest voice is dramatic, humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking.

The one thing that I truly wish was different with this book is the cover art.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The cover of this book is dreadful. Babylonne is a girl of Arab descent, described as being very dark, and definitely not red-headed. Nor does she ever wander around bravely on the ramparts of a castle, bearing a shield and ready for action. Any YA female can do that.

No, Babylonne is a sixteen year-old girl unlike many other YA offerings: oppressed, fierce-tempered, sarcastic, and realistically brave. (Her moments of pure courage are offset by instances of perfectly logical freaking out.) Her opportunities are limitted, and she never really breaks free of the times. But I appreciated that.

Some writers portray the Middle Ages as being a happy and romantic time; Jinks possibly steers too far in the opposite direction. This book is not for the squeamish: boils, rotten teeth, wet rushes, miserable seiges, profound but careless cruelty, latrines, starvation, the flux, all sorts of yuck in the streets... this is not a place you want to be. Even the soap is gross (animal fat and ashes).

But the characters are wonderful, and the story moves from hilarious to heartbreaking and back again. Another thing I particularly appreciated was the portrayal of religion at this time: Babylonne belongs to a persecuted sect of heretics, but spends much of the story in the company of a monk (Isidore, amazing, lovable, and a great ambassador for his religion). So theology is debated in a way that really adds the story, and doesn't consume much time.

In case you're wondering, this book definitely gets a high PG13 rating, because hey, it's the Middle Ages, and Jinks isn't afraid to show it.

Your enjoyment of this book will be greatly aided if you have already read the Pagan books, also by Catherine Jinks, and also excellent.
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