International Reading Association’s 2008 Children’s and Young Adult Book Award in the Intermediate Fiction category
2008 Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers
The Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of 2008
It’s the year 1095…
…and fifteen-year-old Anna longs for a different life in her small German village. But as the seasons turn, the year proves anything but ordinary. Her youngest cousin, Thomas, disappears, and Anna suspects his mother of an unspeakable crime. Another cousin, Martin, runs away to join a renegade army of Crusaders, who bring murder and destruction to Jews in the nearby city of Worms. When Anna risks everything to rescue Leah, an orphaned Jewish girl whose only connection to her family is a silver cup, the two girls forge a remarkable friendship that defies the intolerance of their time.
(Ages 10 and up / 5th grade and up)
Debut novelist Leeds’s rich, sensory prose captures a time and place in a wealth of particular details, from everyday domestic life to the violence directed at the Jews along the Rhine, depicted quite graphically. Anna seems a girl of her times, with what feels like an authentic medieval outlook on her world.
Anti-Semitism is a constant theme to the story and it is rendered with restraint, never overwhelming the plot, characters, or the story’s close attention to the influence of nature on the pattern of medieval village life….Highly recommended for grades 7-10.
Association of Jewish Libraries
Leeds’ patient story development convincingly informs her protagonist’s choices, unpopular in a time and place that cast Jews as “devil’s people,” while meticulous details capture the seasonal rhythms of daily life–from winter’s cabin fever to the brutal, disgusting process of preparing live eels for Lenten supper… YAs who gravitate to historical fiction will appreciate the author’s research, obvious in the rich storytelling as well as in the thoughtful end matter. The tender friendship that develops between Anna and Leah will also speak to teens, who may recognize their own deep attachments in the girls’ unlikely bond.
Jennifer Mattson, Booklist