The complete title of Adam Gidwitz's new book is, The Inquisitor's Tale: Or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. Set in the 13th century, Gidwitz starts his story in an inn. The narrator is trying to find all he can about the three children - and dog - that King Louis IX is hunting down.
Various customers tell the stories; first of Gwenforte, a loyal dog who is wrongly killed and then revered; then of Jeanne, a girl who suffers fits and can see the future. When Jeanne needs her loyal dog the most, Gwenforte comes back from the dead; then of William, a monk-in-training, bigger then anyone in the abbey, dark brown, the son of a Lord and a Saracen woman, and as strong as Samson; and last but not least, Jacob, who knows all about herbs but uses them with miraculous success. Jacob is a Jew. Through a tragedy, he loses his home.
The four must all leave their comfortable homes and eventually they come together. They perform miracles. They make enemies. They unite in a mission to save thousands of years of wisdom, threatened by bigotry. They face mortal danger, and very stinky cheese. Along the way, Gidwitz skillfully plays out legends and superstitions of the times, highlights social injustices and champions open minded thought and the acceptance of all people. What an adventure!
Teachers and curious readers will want to read Gidwitz's Author's Note. It explains his research, which parts are based on the things Gidwitz read, which he changed or fabricated and where he got his background material. There is also an Annotated Bibliography,
When a book strays into my thoughts while I am doing the laundry, or loading the dishwasher, I know it's a darn good book. Since I feared that Jeanne was actually Joan of Arc, I hesitated to finish this book. Whether she is, or not, this is a Darn Good Book. So, read it.
Also? The illustrations - oh, sorry, the Illuminations - are awesome.