A heartbreaking episode in history, explained through the story of a young servant girl in the late 1800s.
The year is 1882. A young servant girl named Esther disappears from a small Hungarian village. Several Jewish men from the village of Tisza Eszvar face the ‘blood libel’ — the centuries-old calumny that Jews murder Christian children for their blood. A fourteen-year-old Jewish boy named Morris Scharf becomes the star witness of corrupt authorities who coerce him into testifying against his fellow Jews, including his own father, at the trial.
This powerful fictionalized account of one of the last blood libel trial in Europe is told through the eyes of Julie, a friend of the murdered Esther, and a servant at the jail where Morris is imprisoned. Julie is no stranger to suffering herself. An abused child, when her mother dies her alcoholic father separates her from her beloved baby sister. Julie and Morris, bound by the tragedy of the times, become unlikely allies. Although Puppet is a novel, it is based upon a real court case that took place in Hungary in 1883. In Hungary today, the name Morris Scharf has become synonymous with “traitor.”
Once again, Eva Wiseman illuminates a heartbreaking episode in history for young readers.
An infamous late-19th-century trial in Hungary serves as the basis for Wiseman's (My Canary Yellow Star) dramatic novel, which introduces the anti-Semitic propaganda of blood libel. When Julie's best friend, Esther, disappears, only Julie, the narrator, looks to Esther's life for clues. Everyone else in her small village rushes to accuse the even smaller community of Jews the villagers know that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make "their Easter bread." As Julie's efforts to offer evidence are silenced with threats (by her father and others), village officials coerce a "Jew boy" into false testimony. The author levers Julie into key positions in the plot too neatly, and the history does not run deep readers won't get a sense for the roots of anti-Semitism in Hungary. These shortcomings notwithstanding, the book offers a valuable look at a historical phenomenon that contemporary readers would find difficult to comprehend; the subject matter will compel their attention. Ages 11 up.