It's the Spanish Inquisition, and agents of oppression grow deadly for two teens.
"But there are times
when peace just becomes
a broken mouthful.
A word that no tongue in the world
- From The Apprentice's Masterpiece
"... like a young person's Kite Runner, a tale ... that both educates and enlightens in a time when we could all use a little more understanding of one another."-- Calgary Herald
"The brief narrative poems are small gems of insight and emotion... and resonate with contemporary connections."-- VOYA
"This riveting story is peopled by flesh-and-blood characters and replete with ... historical detail."-- School Library Journal
ALA/YALSA 2009 Best Books for Young Adults nominee
White Ravens 2008, International Youth Library, Munich
Fifteenth-century Spain is a richly multicultural society in which Jews, Muslims and Christians coexist. But under the zealous Christian Queen Isabella, the country abruptly becomes one of the most murderously intolerant places on Earth.
It is in this atmosphere that the Benvenistes, a family of scribes, attempt to eke out a living. The family has a secret-they are conversos: Jews who converted to Christianity. Now, with neighbors and friends turned into spies, fear hangs in the air.
One day a young man is delivered to their door. His name is Amir, and he wears the robe and red patch of a Muslim. Fifteen-year-old Ramon Benveniste broods over Amir's easy acceptance into the family.
Startling and dramatic events overtake the household, and the family is torn apart. One boy becomes enslaved; the other takes up service for the Inquisitors. Finally, their paths cross again in a stunningly haunting scene.
Melanie Little has crafted a brilliant and elegantly written story in verse about one of the most politically complex and troubling times in human history-the Spanish Inquisition. Drawing on extensive research, Little creates memorable characters, captures the turbulent events of the period, and emblazons horrific images on readers' minds. It is the work of a master.close this panel
Melanie Little is an award-winning short-story writer, essayist and book reviewer. Canada's national newspaper has stated that she "could very well become the Alice Munro of our generation." This is her first novel and her first book for young people. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.close this panel
Finalist, Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction Finalist, Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction
(starred review) Set in Medieval Spain at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Melanie Little's novel in free verse, The Apprentice's Masterpiece, makes for a powerful reading experience... Little tells her tale with concise, evocative words that lend a certain beauty to the story--yet it is not a tale of beauty. Rather, the mistrust, corruption and brutality of the Inquisition are laid bare... The economic, yet evocative, nature of Little's writing helps the reader to gain some understanding of such things as the horror of people being burnt at the stake, the hopeless depression of life as a slave on a galley ship, and the brutality of a medieval siege upon a city. Although this is not subject matter to be enjoyed, mature readers will enjoy Little's masterful use of language... Our modern day world continues to be shaped by religious persecution and conflict, and so readers will likely recognize some of the 21st century in this book set in the 15th century. [An] extremely well written and intriguing book. Highly Recommended.
The brief narrative poems are small gems of insight and emotion, plunging readers into experiences of civil unrest, suspicion, and governmental abuse tht disturb and resonate with contemporary connections.
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.
The subject and history are enthralling ... 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."