(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Stunned by the blistering heat, the noise, the sea of faces crowding in upon her in the teeming Egyptian market, Angeline cannot believe that she is being sold as a slave to one of the great princes in Cairo. Only a short time ago she left her small village in France to follow Stephen, a shepherd boy whose vision led him to mount a children’s Crusade to the Holy Land. But they were decieved by those who offered to help. Now it seems they are doomed to a life of slavery in a foreign land and even Stephen has lost all hope.
Somehow, Angeline must find the strength to survive, as well as to help Stephen overcome his despair. But first she must learn to understand and respect the ways of a culture so very different from her own.
This is another one of my re-reads from my childhood. When I first read it, I was (oddly enough) actually in the target age group for Angeline and enjoyed it immensely. But now that I’m long out of the target age group of tweens and young teens, how did I find the book?
Not bad, actually. For a book aimed at tweens Angeline explores some pretty heavy issues like religion, discrimination and slavery. Does Karleen Bradford go into as much depth as I would have liked? No, but considering her target age group she never goes so far as to speak down to her readers. Things like sex are alluded to and you’d have to know some history to truly appreciate references to the Coptic church and such but it doesn’t feel like the author is writing down to her readers. She doesn’t go and blurt out the message of the book, instead allowing her readers to come to their own conclusions. That’s very rare in middle grade fiction.
One thing I appreciated far more this time around was Karleen Bradford’s representation of Islam. I grew up in a very whitewashed community of Roman Catholics so it was in Angeline that I had my first real exposure to Islam. She doesn’t hold it or any other religion as superior but instead represents both Christianity and Islam well. Now that I’m actually more conscious of other cultures and religions, that was definitely something I could appreciate.
This time around I found myself getting a little bit frustrated with Angeline and her woe-is-me attitude but then again if I found myself sold into slavery in a strange culture and land I’d probably do a heck of a lot more whining. She does eventually grow as a character and makes the best of her circumstances but I can see where readers would get frustrated with her for the first half of the book. As she grows to accept her situation, so too does Stephen, the visionary child crusader. It’s interesting to see how he slowly regains his faith after such a devastating outcome to his supposed grand vision. All of the characters involved are well fleshed-out and have believable character arcs.
I wouldn’t say the plot is fast-paced, but it’s not boring either. It’s the kind of book that you read as a child, re-read and remember fondly. Of course it doesn’t seem as good as when I first read it but it’s still a very good book. If you or someone you know has a daughter from age 10-12ish this book would be an excellent gift.
I give this book 4/5 stars.