Medieval Book Recommendations: The Inquisitor’s Tale

There is a wealth of medieval-themed books for young readers out in the world. In this series of posts, I’m sharing some of my favorites for readers who might be interested in learning more about this world that fascinates me so much. These recommendations include works about northern Europe, which is where my own research has led me (it’s also been challenging to find texts for young readers that explore other geographic areas during the medieval period). I won’t include many books that have a heavy reliance on magic in this list, unless it’s as much a historical as fantasy with clear links to the real medieval world.

And we start with one such book: Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale.

This immaculately researched story follows three magical children in medieval France. Jeanne, who has had visions and owns a holy dog that has come back to life, is fleeing soldiers tasked with burning her at the stake. The oblate William, the child of an African Muslim woman and a Christian crusader, is expelled from his monastery and traveling to a new one in Saint-Denis. Jacob, a Jewish boy, escapes his burned village and goes in search of his cousin in Saint-Denis. The three meet up and together flee from the soldiers toward their common destination: Saint-Denis. But once there, their escape turns into a quest to save holy texts. A final confrontation at Mont Saint-Michel shows that kindness has the power of any miracle.

This book is especially notable for the three main characters’ ethnic, religious, and racial diversity. It will appeal to readers who loved Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm, those simply eager to learn about medieval society, and those keen on a wildly funny and engaging story.

A 2017 Newbery Honor Book

Ages 10 and up

Story Bites

Thanks to my son for creating this colored collagraph print for me!

Story bites are a tiny but important piece of a story—a starting point, a detail, an action, or a character—written as short and fun pieces of writing. On this website, I’ll give you a prompt and invite you to respond to it. What to do next is up to you. Make your piece as short or as long as you want; it’s your writing.

Each month, I’ll post a new prompt and invite you to write a story bite based on it.

Please share your story bites! Submit your story bite to me through your teacher or an adult’s home email address and include: your first name, grade, town, and state. (Elementary, middle, and high school students only, please.)

When I’m able to, I’ll post a story bite that I’ve received the month before and say a few things that I like about it.

Teachers: if your make story bites part of a lesson, please let me know how it went. And share them! I’d love to see your students’ work.

Student Work

In December 2016, I visited Memorial Middle School in South Portland, Maine, and spoke to five classes of sixth graders. This was my first time holding Create a Premise and it was a resounding success. Here’s one premise that students created—and revised. I provided medieval names and identities for the students to choose from.

Liulf, a monster from the woods, must kill people because he needs to eat them. He’s constantly fleeing from knights sent by the local lord, but must continue to kill and eat, or else he’ll starve. Amelyn, a castle guard’s daughter, is Liulf’s best friend. Amelyn carries a certain kind of blood that Liulf needs: if he consumes it, he’ll become human, which is his goal. But he can’t bear the thought of eating his friend, and so when he learns that she alone has the blood to save him, he flees from her. Yet Amelyn, who loves her friend, follows him, unaware of the risk to her life.

I love this premise, and I hope the students create a story based on it!