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In Spain in 1492, fourteen-year-old Maria, a Catholic orphan, becomes a servant to a wealthy family of Conversos, converted Jews, at a time when the Jews are being expelled from the country and when the Inquisition is diligently searching for religious heretics.
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In 1492 people of the Jewish faith were leaving Spain by the thousands. Not even the Conversos, those who had converted to the Catholic faith, were safe. Inquisitors sought out heretics and encouraged informers to report anyone who might not be a "pure" Catholic. Those accused were then questioned and tortured. Many confessed to anything that would stop their torture. Those declared "guilty" could be burned at the stake.
In this atmosphere of uncertainty and terror, fourteen-year-old Maria finds herself alone and homeless. The Church assists Maria by offering her the opportunity to work for the Delgados, a wealthy Converso family. But the church also asks something of her in return . . .
"Secrets in the House of Delgado confronts issues of faith and bigotry, while wrestling with questions of loyalty, betrayal, and the secrets that may lie in every human heart.From School Library Journal:
Gr 6-8-The horror of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 is told through the voice of 14-year-old Maria Sanchez, a recently orphaned Catholic. Desperation forces her to seek the help of a priest, who finds her a position as a companion and servant to 11-year-old Angelica Delgado, whose family had converted from Judaism to Catholicism generations earlier. She is determined to fulfill her mission to spy on the Delgados and find out whether they are practicing Jews, in part because of her fear of what happens to people who protect them. Maria is a likable character in spite of her prejudices shaped by the period's rampant anti-Semitism. The juxtaposition of her report to the priest and Dr. Delgado's arrest and questioning makes her feel responsible for the potential destruction of the family who took her in and treated her with kindness and respect. Eventually Maria sees and understands the Inquisition's injustice, and she ultimately takes risks to try to save the family. The introduction of Maria's sea captain uncle and his courageous involvement in the Delgados' rescue is a bit contrived but does not seriously detract from an otherwise engrossing tale. Waldtraut Lewin's Freedom beyond the Sea (Delacorte, 2001) and Jacqueline Dembar Greene's Out of Many Waters (1988) and One Foot Ashore (1994, both Walker) take the point of view of young Jewish girls escaping from the Inquisition. Miklowitz's novel offers another view of that era's atrocities and their far-reaching ramifications.
Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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