The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
My mother loved books. My mother loved history. She was particularly partial to Chaucer and Shakespeare. We grew up loving Barbara Cooney's adaptation of Chanticleer and the Fox as well as Tales of Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb.
Mother was especially fond of Marchette Chute's work for both adults and children. A well-worn copy of Chaucer of London was on her bookshelf. We were taught to recite Chute's poetry and loved The Innocent Wayfaring, a story enhanced with the authors own "decorations". (Sadly, this book is now out of print.) The opening chapter is a classic, one that I never tire of reading. It features a blue vaulted ceiling, scattered with stars. When I read Gidwitz's description of "the double-barreled-vaulted ceiling...painted deep blue with golden stars aping the real heavens" I knew that I had found the book that was a continuation of my childhood fascination with books about the Middle Ages.
I was not disappointed.
Like Chaucer, some of the tales are earthy. Gidwitz adds this own signature "go for the gruesome" scenes with downright disgusting incidents that young readers will relish. (How many times will kids reread the gross-out description of the dragon that gets sick while gorging on sheep? My guess is an infinite number of times.)
There is religion, a lot of religion in the book. There are saints and martyrs, Jews and monks, Talmuds, and Bibles. There are questions. Big questions such as the question of Evil.
Gidwitz's storytelling skills are considerable and shine gloriously in this magnificent tale. The well- researched historical details are neatly embedded but never overshadow the story. Tension builds as events unfold, and an important secret is revealed. I kept caressing the cover over and over again when I reached the denouement.
Read this book for the medieval history. Read it for the humor. Read it for a consideration of thought-provoking questions on racism, religion, and the value of books. Read it for the wild and wonderful narrative that it is. Whatever your reason for reading The Inquisitor's Tale, you will be richly rewarded.
A word about the illustrations.
Confession. I'm a seriously attracted to illuminated text. The visual aspect of this form instantly captures my attention and draws me into the page.
I love the intricate patterns and designs. I find that this imagery enhances the text, adding richness and depth to the printed word.
Hatem Aly has incorporated traditional elements of illumination with the lively nature of Gidwitz's writing style to create his own riff on this traditional art style that is well suited to the story.