The Inquisitor's Tale, Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

by Adam Gidwitz

Other authorsHatem Aly (Illustrator.)
Book, 2016



Call number

J 760 GID



New York, NY Dutton Children's Books, 2016


Crossing paths at an inn, thirteenth-century travelers impart the tales of a monastery oblate, a Jewish refugee, and a psychic peasant girl with a loyal greyhound, the three of whom join forces on a chase through France to escape persecution.

Media reviews

What Gidwitz, the author of the Grimm trilogy, accomplishes here is staggering. “The Inquisitor’s Tale” is equal parts swashbuckling epic, medieval morality play, religious polemic and bawdy burlesque, propelling us toward a white-knuckle climax where three children must leap into a fire to
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save . . . a Talmud. And yet, the rescue of this single book feels like higher stakes than any world-incinerating superhero battle. Part of this is because “The Inquisitor’s Tale” is dense with literary and earthy delights, including Hatem Aly’s exquisite illustrations, which wrap around the text as in an illuminated manuscript. Working together, the art and story veer exuberantly between the high and the low to make Jeanne, Jacob and William feel like flesh-and-blood children, despite their holiness.
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A final clarification, then: God is hot in children’s books from major non-Christian publishers this year. Ahhhh. That’s better. Indeed, in a year when serious literary consideration is being heaped upon books like John Hendrix’s Miracle Man, in walks Adam Gidwitz and his game changing The
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Inquisitor’s Tale. Now I have read my fair share of middle grade novels for kids, and I tell you straight out that I have never read a book like this. It’s weird, and unfamiliar, and religious, and irreligious, and more fun than it has any right to be. Quite simply, Gidwitz found himself a holy dog, added in a couple proto-saints, and voila! A book that’s part superhero story, part quixotic holy quest, and part Canterbury Tales with just a whiff of intrusive narration for spice. In short, nothing you’ve encountered in all your livelong days. Bon appétit.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member AMQS
It's early March, in the year of our Lord 1242. Outside, the sky is dark and getting darker. The wind is throwing the branches of an oak against the walls of the inn. The shutters are closed tight, to keep the dark out.

It's the perfect night for a story.

Perhaps one of the best-ever beginnings to a
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book, and the story only got better from there. This book brings Europe of the Middle Ages brilliantly to life, while celebrating the power of stories, storytelling, and the written word. Travelers at an inn a "day's walk north of Paris" gather round over mugs of ale to hear the incredible story of the peasant girl Jeanne, who sees visions, and her resurrected greyhound Gwenforte, the latter revered as a saint in their village. When mercenary knights arrive to question Jeanne's heresy, she flees with Gwenforte. As the teller of this story (the lowly brewster) recounts all she knows, the thread is then picked up by another traveler (a nun), who adds a bit more. A librarian recounts the story of the giant oblate William, whose crusading father fell in love with a Saracen and abandoned him at a monastery. William is devoted, but his freakish strength causes him to be expelled from the monastery to travel alone to Saint-Denis. Aron the Butcher adds the story of Jacob, a young Jewish boy with powerful healing abilities, who flees his village after is it burned by Christians. The three children meet up under violent and harrowing circumstances, deeply mistrusting each other until the youthful, innocent bonds of friendship, loyalty, and kindness overcome their differences. These same qualities affect those who meet or intercept them on their journey.

This is just an amazing story-championing story. It completely respects its audience -- 5th graders and up -- never softening the dangers, hatreds, religious suspicions, and outright barbarisms of the Middle Ages as it tells of goodness and selflessness, and reflects on the nature of God and belief. Real medieval legends, songs, and characters lend authenticity to the Canterbury Tales-like unfolding. The author's notes and annotated bibliography (!) are excellent reads themselves. The text is illuminated in the medieval style by Egyptian-born illuminator Hatem Aly. For all that, it never takes itself too seriously. I have never read anything written for children like this. It is simply excellent.

The author brings his story and setting back to the present-day in his notes, and has this to say about the Middle Ages:
"I hope, if nothing else, this book has convinced you that the Middle Ages were not "dark", but rather an amazing, vibrant, dynamic period. Universities were invented, the modern financial system was born, kingship as we know it developed -- and so did much of the religious strife that currently grips our world.


It was a time when people were redefining how they lived with the "other," with people who were different from them. The parallels between our time and theirs are rich, poignant, and, too often, tragic. As I put the finishing touches on this novel, more than a hundred and forty people were killed in Paris by terrorists. It turns out they planned the attack from apartments in the town of Saint-Denis. The tragic irony of this haunts me. Zealots kill, and the victims retaliate with killing, and the cycle continues, extending forward and backward in history, apparently without end. I can think of nothing sane to say about this except this book."
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LibraryThing member acargile
This novel is an nod to The Canterbury Tales in that different people tell tales in order for the reader to get the entire story of the children and the dog.

In the year 1242, travelers are in an inn for a dark evening. The King has issued an arrest warrant for three children and their dog. One man
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seeks to know why and has many questions. Coincidentally, many of the people in the inn know the children or witnessed what has happened to them, so they tell their tales. Within the tales, you meet Jeanne, a peasant girl, who has visions of the future. This ability is seen as evil unless it is something that would one day make you a saint. She’s perceived as evil because her dog was dead for years and now lives. Did she bring him back to life?

Two more children meet up with Jeanne. Jacob is a Jewish boy whose home and town were burned by Christians. He’s gifted with the ability to heal, which makes him suspicious as well. The Jews were barely tolerated and violence against them was considered poor taste by some but not a terrible crime. William is a monk who has amazing strength. He believes in Christ and finds meeting a Jewish boy interesting. He truly loves learning and finds this journey a learning experience.

The three children are accompanied by the dog and eventually meet the King of France. The question is--what happened that the King now wants them captured and possibly killed? The stories are compelling and the illuminations reference back to the illuminated texts of the time period. I’ll admit that I wasn’t terribly excited to read this book, and then I was trying to decide between reading the book because of the illuminations or listening to it because the performers received great reviews. I ended up listening to it and do not regret my selection. I definitely recommend this clever novel.
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LibraryThing member brangwinn
I wish I had read the afterword before I read the book. I kept trying to turn the main character, Jeanne, into Joan of Arc, instead of just reading the book. Wow, what powerful writing in a children’s book. 13th century France, was not a place that tolerated anything that wasn’t Catholic. And
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when Jeanne begins having fits and a dog who has been venerated by local peasants as a saint has come back to life, Jeanne is to be hanged as a witch, but that’s just the beginning. She meets up with a black oblate (priest-in-training) and Jacob, a Jewish boy who fled when his village was burned. There is so much involved in this book, it could be slow going as the reader tries to take in everything that is happening, including the burning of books in Hebrew by the French King, Louis. I loved the book, and enjoyed the part Mont St. Michel played in this story. Even after reading the book several days ago, I am still pondering what really constitutes a miracle. And if the history doesn’t entrall the middle school or high school reader the ass and fart jokes will make up for that.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
What do you think of when you hear the Dark Ages? And what if someone mentions Chaucer's Canterbury Tales? Most people would be thinking of long boring lectures about a time in history that no one really wants to revisit. Why else would they call it the Dark Ages? Well all those stereotypes are
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completely removed with The Inquisitor's Tale. Told mostly as a set of stories recounted by a group of travelers at an inn, this book depicts a time and place that is colorful and vibrant and a story that is heartwarming with enough suspense to keep middle graders through adults totally captivated.

A group of strangers are gathered at an inn hoping for some entertainment or news, when one person starts the tale of an amazing young girl and dog, who might be magical, or at least have some miraculous events that follow them. But the person only knows so much about that girl. But of course, another stranger in the group pipes in and shares what they know about this girl. And the story continues from one traveler to another. The girl is joined by young Benedictine oblate, and a Jewish boy. Although the story starts out slowly, I was completely mesmerized by this tale. The book is rated for middle grade to adult and I really think everyone in that age range would find something to enjoy with this book.

I received a free listening copy of this audiobook from
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LibraryThing member Brainannex
Three unlikely friends and their dog are possibly miraculous in this Chaucer-like tale.
LibraryThing member electrascaife
Hmm. Yes, well. It's okay. I guess. I didn't loathe it. But there are certainly more things about this one that irritate me than there are that don't. The tone seems all over the place (there are 'ass' jokes and then there are serious-seeming moral lessons, or something), and the completely
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unexpected violence sticks out like a sore appendage - pointless and weird. Plus, the plot twists were either visible a long way off or not that interesting, really. But the bit that pushed it over the Nope-I-Don't-Really-Like-It Cliff for me was the 'God works in mysterious ways' wrap-up. Ugh. That ridiculous trope of an explanation is as lazy and inappropriate a consolation in a book as it is in real life.
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LibraryThing member asomers
I loved this book. It's a story about storytelling. It's tale that takes place during the Middle Ages. It's a yarn about the inquisition. It includes troubadours, monks, martyrs and quite of bit of philosophy and religion thrown in. It is humorous, scary, and thought provoking. There are some
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really important themes and lessons embedded in this saga especially in light of current events. I just don't know how to get it into a kid's hands. This is going to take some creative convincing on my part but I know that put in the right hands, this will be some student's favorite book.
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LibraryThing member Tessa.Johnson
This book was interesting, but I had a hard time loving it. I think it's the kind of book that either appeals to your or it doesn't. It's the story of three children who have some "powers" from God, or elsewhere. They are joined by a dog with similar gifts and embark on a journey of adventure and
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survival, and a goal of saving printed editions of the Bible. I am not a religious person and therefor I'm certain there are elements of this book that went right over my head. The story started off slow, but grew on me. However, if it weren't a book that I had committed to reading for other reasons, it's quite likely I wouldn't have finished it. It felt a little heavy, both literally and figuratively, for the 4th and 5th graders in my school, but there are a few kids who have read it and enjoyed it. Over all I think it would appeal to older students and those with an interest in religious history.
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LibraryThing member bibliovermis
I love how out-of-nowhere gross Adam Gidwitz's books are. They may be a little saccharine, as well, but I think that sentimentality pretty nicely balances out the gross-out gore that just kind of explodes off the page at random, and both the sweetness and the grossness distract you from how
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sneakily educational they are. He's really a perfect author for the middle grades.
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LibraryThing member sgrame
In a small village in 13th century France, a young peasant girl named Jeanne has visions and finds her greyhound that was killed protecting her years before has come back to life. This is more than enough to mark her as a heretic. She meets up with a Jewish orphan who has the gift of healing and a
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teenage oblate who is bigger and stronger than adult men, and half African- his dark skin is off-setting to everyone he meets. Are they saints or troublemakers? The 3 children all are on the run from the knights sent to kill them. They come together for survival and to complete a quest, trying to save some of France's Jewish talmuds from being destroyed. In the meantime, they struggle to find answers to many questions theologists still struggle with today. And then there's a farting dragon and an ale-drinking nun to keep things light-hearted. The inquisitor gathers his information at the local tavern, relays the story in a very human, fun, and exciting way. This 363 pg. book would make for a great discussion with young people or adults interested in religious quests.
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LibraryThing member ChristianR
Medieval history comes to life in France in this Newbery Award finalist. A narrator in an inn learns the stories of three children who have performed miracles and are being hunted by King Louis for attempting to stop him from burning Jewish holy texts.
LibraryThing member theretiredlibrarian
I enjoyed this book, but have to question whether it is something children will understand/enjoy.
LibraryThing member SamMusher
Kind of brilliant. Funny enough (farting dragon!) to be an easy sell to kids who aren't going to be like, "Yeah, gimme the medieval road trip novel loosely based on Joan of Arc!" But it's also smart, religious without being didactic, and full of hope and inspiration for seeing love rather than fear
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in diversity. I predict this one's going to be a classic.
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LibraryThing member BillieBook
Adam Gidwitz is the Christopher Moore of Middle Grade fiction. Not the Moore of The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove or Bloodsucking Fiends, but the Moore of Lamb and Fool—funny, irreverent, not above a good fart joke, and way more intelligent than you would gather from a casual read. The
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Inquisitor's Tale is maybe not as broadly humorous as his Grimm tales (though it is certainly not lacking in humor) nor is it as meta-fictional (though the narrator does inject himself into the story). It is, instead, much more philosophical and delves into matters of faith and friendship and morality and mortality. Gidwitz never shies away from the darker, more brutal aspects of humanity, but they are deftly balanced with grace and beauty and innocence. This is a book both sacred and profane; it will make you laugh and think and probably cry a little. It is a reading experience well worth having and may even make you believe in miracles.
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LibraryThing member fingerpost
Set in the medieval era, three children (and a Greyhound) have seemingly God given powers, that lead some to view them as saints, while others see the very idea as heresy. Jeanne is a peasant girl who occasionally has a "fit" in which she sees the future. Jacob is a Jewish boy who can almost
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miraculously heal wounds. William is an unusually gigantic child, a monk in training, who has miraculous strength, and there is Gwenforte the Greyhound who has risen from the dead several years after her burial. Each child, for different reasons, finds themselves traveling alone, and they find each other. They soon acquire a mission, under the leadership of a monk; a mission that leads them into mortal danger, repeatedly.
(At its core, this is not a supernatural tale, but the readers should expect a handful of supernatural things to happen, a few of which seem a little out of place.)
The story is told with a deep bow to Chaucer, as portions of the tale are told by a nun, a juggler, a tavern keeper, etc.
The storytelling is fine, with a keen sense of the medieval setting. Many of the reader's assumptions will be proven false, and there are several characters who do not fall into convenient good/bad categories.
Advanced 10-12 year old readers up to adult should enjoy this one.
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LibraryThing member ewyatt
Jeanne, Jacob and William find themselves homeless, drawn together by their status of performing miracles. The story is told in an inn where a variety of travelers tell the tale of the three children and Gwenforte, the dog. A good sense of humor and lots of quick chapters telling short bursts of
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narration. A long, but really enjoyable read that give insight into the medieval world.
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LibraryThing member bell7
A man goes to a pub and starts asking the clientele what they know about three children and a dog, potential saints and now outlaws. Each chapter is different folk's telling of the story - a nun, a jongleur, and more.

Set in the Middle Ages and told in a similar style to the Canterbury Tales, The
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Inquisitor's Tale is the kind of story I started out wondering if it wasn't just a little too clever for it's own good, but it won me over in the end. I think I would've liked it even more as a kid, if a parent was reading it aloud to me and I could follow the illustrations peeking over their shoulder. It takes a little while to get going, telling the separate stories of the three children and how they came together, and it's very episodic though the chapters tend to end on cliffhangers at the same time. I thought I had the narrator pegged at a certain point and was delighted when I was wrong. The author's note at the end gave some fascinating information about what was fact and what was fiction and where on earth he got ideas for various aspects of the story.
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LibraryThing member AnnaWaffles
Words cannot express how much I loved this book. Go read it right now.

No, really, why are you still here?
LibraryThing member Dairyqueen84
Interesting, sweet tale appropriate for young and old readers. The author's historical notes at the end of the book provided the historical basis for the story.
LibraryThing member jennybeast
Well, I made a mistake by reading an ARC instead of the real thing, and missed out on most of the illustrations. I think they would have added a great deal to the book.

I think that it is clever, well written, flows nicely from one story to the next. I like the short Canterbury tales form. I like
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the descriptions/depictions of the Middle Ages. There is some distressing (if realistic) violence. There is a lot of interesting theological philosophy. There are lighthearted fart jokes. I feel like it deserves all the praise for its brilliance, but I personally got tired of it pretty quickly, too. There is a point in my life when I would have been pretty excited about this book, but this is not it. Alas.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
In medieval France, three children (and a dog) exhibit signs and wonders . . . but what will happen when they find themselves in opposition to the king?

This book exhibits some of the zany humor of the author's Grimm series, but with more depth: on one hand, there is a farting dragon, but on the
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other hand there is a serious examination of the treatment of Jews in the Middle Ages, and a quest to prevent the burning of thousands of copies of the Talmud. I can see how the Newbery committee found this distinguished.

The audio version is okay -- I found some of the transitions weird and a little distracting, but not so much as to make me stop listening.
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Original publication date



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