This is a worthy addition to the canon of children’s historical literature taking, as it does, for its subject the Children’s Crusade of 1212, which swept through France that year only to end at the southern port of Marseilles. The French Crusade was led by a shepherd boy, called Stephen, handsome and charismatic but proving to be dissolute and flawed. The story is brought close to the reader through the characters of Georgette, a young but devout village girl, and Robert, a brilliant companion to the Abbot of Blois, plucked from his poor orphaned existence when a small child.
The two main characters do not spring to life as well as could be hoped, and remain more ciphers than recognisable personalities. It is true that is is a leap of faith to put oneself in the medieval mind but, while recognising that their world was very different from our own, the reader could expect to feel more empathy for Georgette and Robert considering the horrors and ultimate betrayal of the journey in which they were involved. The intention was to march on Jerusalem and free the Holy City from the Infidel, which would involve a biblical parting of the Mediterranean to allow them through. The modern reader could also have a problem in understanding how so many young children were allowed on this journey from which most never returned.
Religious fervour is an alien experience to most young people today, but this book would certainly provide clues to the reality of the 13th-century experience. It is difficult to know which target audience the book would succeed with, but probably both boys and girls of 12+. The writer is South African by birth, but currently lives in California. She provides an impressive list for further reading at the end of the book and five pages of historical notes.