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THE SECRET SHOFAR OF BARCELONA by Jacqueline Dembar Greene


by Jacqueline Dembar Greene and illustrated by Doug Chayka

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8225-9915-9
Publisher: Kar-Ben

Among Spain’s secret Jews—conversos—were well-educated merchants and professionals who worked and lived within the medieval Catholic society yet found ways to clandestinely practice their forbidden, ancient faith. When Don Fernando, the conductor of Barcelona’s Royal Orchestra, himself a converso, plans a new concert for the nobility, he devises a way to include a piece sporting exotic instruments made by the natives from the New World. It is fall and just in time for Rosh Hashanah, so with son Rafael’s bold complicity, the shofar, or ram’s horn, is included to sound the four distinct notes that usher in the Jewish New Year. Basing her tale on legend, Greene provides a smooth, suspenseful view into a rarely depicted portion of Jewish history, when Jews led a dual life and managed to maintain their Judaic rituals by blending in or hiding their beliefs and traditions, sometimes in plain sight. Chayka’s deep, opaque paintings reflect an upper-class, dark-haired Iberian society juxtaposed with the Judaic rituals of the Rosh Hashanah meal. (introductory, author’s notes) (Picture book. 6-10)