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Summary ~ Reviews ~ Excerpt ~ Teachers’ Guide

AND: Excerpts from Correspondence about ANGELINE
  • Canadian Children’s Book Centre Our Choice 2005 (Starred review)

  • Nominated for the 2006/2007 Stellar Award

  • Selected as an Honour Book for the Geoffrey Bilson Historical Award, 2005

  • Nominated for the 2005 IODE Violet Downey Award

  • Nominated for the Ontario Library Association White Pine Award, 2006

  • Nominated for the 2006 Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award


The Fifth Book of the Crusades

Stunned by the blistering heat, the noise, the sea of faces crowding in upon her in the teeming Egyptian market, Angeline cannot believe that she is being sold as a slave to one of the great princes of Cairo. Only a short time ago she left her small village in France to follow Stephen, a shepherd boy whose vision led him to mount a children’s crusade to the Holy Land, but they were deceived by those who offered help. Now it seems they are doomed to a life of slavery in a foreign land and even Stephen has lost all hope.

Somehow, Angeline must find the strength to survive, as well as to help Stephen overcome his despair. But first she must learn to understand and respect the ways of a culture so very different from her own.

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2004


Books in Canada, December, 2004

“The title and theme immediately put me in mind of the Angelique books which my friends and I read avidly (and surreptitiously) in high school. Though not of the same racy nature, this works the same territory of historical fiction with an exotic setting, romantic tone, and compelling characters. You know it’s a good story when you forsake the day’s tasks and curl up on the sofa to read till you are finished. Both my teen reader and I fell under its spell.

“One is immediately drawn into the book and sympathetic to Angeline as she stands on the block in an Egyptian slave market, after participating in the tragic madness of the Children’s Crusade of 1212 A.D. The Crusade, in which thousands of children died or were sold into slavery, is explained in the Prologue and portrayed through horrific flashbacks of Angeline’s experiences. The memory of those children — of all the lost children — was a searing ache within her that she would carry for the rest of her life.

“The Crusade is but one of several strong topics dealt with in the book, along with female sexual slavery (concubinage, harems), the hostile relationship between Christianity and Islam, the question of God and faith, and the two-edged power of religion which can lead astray but also fortify. The depiction of cultural and religious intolerances based on ignorance — i.e. the core beliefs of the Christian crusades against the Muslim ‘infidel’ — are timely, given the present day battles between fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims. Reading Bradford, one might wonder have we yet left the Middle Ages.

“I must confess to an uneasiness at the almost cosy depiction of female slavery and would question the description of the Emir’s sexual use of Angeline as ‘kind and respectful.’ Given that she had no choice in the matter and was not willing, this would normally be called rape. Yet one is forced to ruminate upon the question of how real people survive in these situations, the compromises they make, and the possibility, however slight, of their achieving happiness within such restricted parameters. The author tells us in her historical note that “slaves were treated well in the Muslim society of Egypt; most of the children sold there eventually were able to make good lives for themselves.

“At any rate, Bradford does not shy away from these difficult topics and her young readers will appreciate her straightforward manner. More importantly, she does not allow the weight of message or moralising to interfere with her story. This is a powerful coming-of-age tale of a courageous young woman who faces terrible hardship but remains true to herself and her will to survive — I must take care of myself — ultimately grasping happiness against the odds.

“A final word on the writing: it flows as smoothly and sweetly as honey over dates. The occasional use of archaic syntax and vocabulary adds an antique flavour to the prose, while the evocation of colour, scent, desert image and suq carry you off to Cairo.”

Reviewed by O. R. Melling

Manitoba Library Association, CM: Canadian Review of Materials, October 29 2004
Four Star Review

“Angeline, a poor French peasant girl, is persuaded by the visionary shepherd, Stephen, to join the Children’s Crusade to reclaim Jerusalem from the “infidels.” She and Stephen and Father Martin are betrayed and sold as slaves to the Emir Abd’al Haseeb, a powerful and wealthy Egyptian. They learn to cope in this strange new society which contradicts much of what they have been taught about eastern ways. Angeline learns to copy manuscripts, and, as the Emir’s concubine, becomes pregnant with his child, but she receives her freedom when the Emir realizes that she wishes to marry Stephen, who has conquered depression and become a hero in the Emir’s eyes after he rescues the Emir’s son twice. Father Martin allows the Emir’s doctors to treat his illness and becomes better both physically and mentally as he learns to accept the ways of Islam and the Coptic Christians.

“This novel is based on the horrific experience of the 20,000 children who followed Stephen of Cloyes to Marseilles in 1212. Thirteenth century Egypt comes alive in the hands of this marvellous storyteller. You can taste the sand and feel the peace of the Emir’s house. The markets, the journey on the Nile, and the streets of Cairo are all pulsing with action, colour, strange smells and wonderful food.

“Angeline is a strong young girl, determined to survive, and equally determined that no one will own her. Gradually she accepts the love and friendship of Zahra, the Emir’s favourite concubine, who owns her yet teaches her to copy manuscripts and nurses her through a broken leg accident. Her faith is shaken by the Coptic Christians who seem to be such good people. When Zahra earns her freedom, Angeline reluctantly takes her place at the same time as she realizes that she is in love with Stephen. Her pregnancy only stiffens her resolve. Stephen’s faith leads him into depression as he thinks he has not only failed completely in his Crusade but also is responsible for the deaths of so many children. However, through the rewards and support of the thankful Emir, and a second vision, Stephen regains his love of life and begins to plan for the future. Father Martin represents the Christian Church and its reluctance to accept that there could be any good come out of the east. His physical sickness mirrors his sickness of the soul, and it is only when he accepts the help of the Emir’s physicians that he becomes better physically while at the same time he begins to accept that Islam may have something to teach him. The Egyptian characters (the Emir, Zahra, the family steward Zeid, and the child Aza) are calm, compassionate people who treat everyone with great respect. The harem girls are more petulant and Samah, the servant in charge is more imperative. Ibrahim, the Coptic Christian, is curious and friendly, giving both Angeline and Stephen the help they need to adapt and survive.

“When Angeline is first captured and sold as a slave, the narrative runs through her mind as she cannot speak in Arabic. Her terror and isolation keep her silent. However, as she learns Arabic and when she meets with Stephen and Father Martin, there is more dialogue. The descriptions of the life in Cairo all come through the eyes of Angeline the newcomer, and so they both enlighten and inform. This is historical fiction at its best, all show and no tell.

Angeline is a well-designed book, with a stunning desert scene on the front cover along with the Arabic word for “thank you”, the first phrase Angeline learns to write in Arabic. The elegant script chosen for the chapter titles and the headings reflects the eastern style.

Angeline is a compelling story of a plucky heroine that will appeal to both boys and girls in grades 6 to 10. However, it will also prove to be a forum for discussions around faith. It is not only through their Christian faith that Stephen, Angeline and Father Martin survive. They also receive grace when they accept the ways of Islam and Egypt as they realize that there is more than one way to God. The thirteenth century city of Cairo welcomes people of all faith who respect each other -- a model we still cannot manage to build in the world a thousand years later.

Highly Recommended.”

Review by Joan Marshall

Canadian Children’s Centre Book News, Summer 2004

“In this quietly compelling tale, Karleen Bradford revisits, and expertly recreates, a distant time and event which clearly beckons to her. As in her earlier Crusades Trilogy, Bradford has chosen the wars between the Christians and Muslims for control of Jerusalem as the backdrop for her latest historical novel. However, in this book she weaves the story of the shepherd boy Stephen who led an ill-fated children’s crusade, believing that with only their faith to guide and protect them, these young people would reclaim the Holy City. Instead thousands perished and many more were betrayed and sold into slavery. Stephen and Angeline find themselves slaves in a wealthy Egyptian household as this story begins. Struggling to overcome their bitter sense of disillusionment that their glorious quest could end this way, they must also learn to understand, and to survive in, a culture so remarkable foreign from their own, and to accept friendship and good fortune in their myriad different disguises.

“The author provides a rich and vivid depiction of Egypt in all its mysteriousness. Bradford also creates a thoughtful account of Angeline’s Islamic captors, an intriguing glimpse into their customs and daily lives while providing an honest portrayal of Angeline’s conflicting emotions: the confusion, the frustration, the anger, the aloneness as she struggles to come to terms with her situation and her place in this new and strange world. It is a beautifully evocative work that will undoubtedly inspire further interest in the topic.

“While I wished that I could see things through Stephen’s eyes as well, the characters in Angeline were easy to identify with and true to life, complete with their own, very human, weaknesses. This is truly a marvellous book.”

Review by Lisa Doucet

Quill & Quire, August 2004

“Five years after the end of her award-winning Crusades trilogy, Karleen Bradford re-engages the Holy Wars—this time the Children’s Crusade, the last and most tragic of the campaigns.

“Along with 20,000 other young people, Angeline has left her village in France to follow Stephen, a shepherd boy with a vision of retaking Jerusalem. Bradford picks up the story in Egypt almost too quickly, with only a glimpse of the horrors along the way. The few who survived their journey have been betrayed and sold into slavery, their faith all but crushed. Stephen is left in deep despair.

“However, Angeline soon discovers her situation could be worse. She becomes slave to the emir’s favoured concubine, a woman of grace and learning. Bradford deftly evokes an exotic world of crocodiles and pyramids, silken bowers and scented palaces. Instead of barbarism and brutality, Angeline finds in medieval Cairo a culture undergoing enlightenment, a rich city where Muslims, Christians, and Jews co-exist peaceably. She acquires language and insight.

“Bradford’s 15-year-old protagonist struggles for autonomy, fiercely opposing those who threaten it. But Angeline does not come out unscathed. The concubine makes sure Angeline catches the emir’s eye, for that is a slave’s only route to power. Bradford draws a discreet curtain around Angeline’s bedding by the emir, but she is candid about the fact and its traumatic aftermath.

“Once again, Bradford’s characters are manipulated by offstage forces that subvert the human qualities of faith, courage, and unselfish devotion to a greater cause. Bradford takes on timely themes of East versus West, Christian spirituality and hypocrisy, and sex and power to show that an open mind, tolerance, and firsthand knowledge are a person’s best defence.”

Review by Maureen Garvie


The sun beat down from a hard, blue, cloudless sky. Heat radiated back from the endless sand. There was no escape from it. Angeline stood on the stone block, swaying with dizziness. She managed one glance around her but couldn’t face the crowd staring up at her. The man holding her shouted something and others shouted back. She knew not what they were saying, but she realized what they were doing - they were bargaining for her! She crossed her arms and hugged them close. Her face burned with shame. A slave. She was being sold as a slave. She still could not make sense of it all. It had been such a glorious dream. Stephen’s dream--and then hers...

She had first met Stephen on the road to her village market. She had been stumbling under the heavy load that her uncle - that cursed man - had forced her to carry. Stephen and the young priest who travelled with him, Father Martin, had been making their way along the same path. Stephen had offered to help, but her uncle had struck him with his stick, and railed at the priest when he sought to protect the boy.

“Begone with you, you black crow!” her uncle had shouted. Her clodpole of an uncle. Angeline had had no love for priests - her own village priest, Father Bertrand, had hounded her mother to her death because she had not been properly wed and would tell no one who the father of her child was, but surely her uncle would go to hell for that blasphemy. She hoped he would.

The next morning in church after Mass, she had been surprised to see Father Bertrand thrust that same boy forward.

“My people. My flock,” the priest had proclaimed in a triumphant voice. “You see before you a boy. Naught but a simple shepherd. Be not deceived by his poor appearance - this boy, Stephen, from the village of Cloyes, has been sent to us by God! He bears a letter that commands him to lead a crusade of innocents to the Holy Land. A letter which he has been bade to take to King Philip himself!”

He had turned to Stephen. For a long moment the boy had just stood there. Angeline thought that he looked terrified. Finally, he drew a deep breath and began to speak, but he could only stutter and his voice was so weak that some of the people laughed. She had felt a sudden surge of protectiveness toward him then. Surely he could not be much older than she, and she had seen but fourteen summers. How could a mere boy be summoned by God for such a mission?

But Stephen found his voice. He began to preach as if possessed by angels. Before her eyes he was transformed. He straightened and tossed back the lock of hair that fell into his eyes. His voice strengthened, became as powerful as Father Bertrand’s - more powerful even. It rang out to fill every corner of the church. His whole body shuddered with the force that seemed to be pouring into him. There was no more laughter from the people. They sat openmouthed and staring.

“This letter was given to me by the Christ Himself!” he announced. “It commands me to lead a new crusade to the Holy Land. To Jerusalem. To restore our sacred city to Christianity!” Angeline had listened, amazed.

“Another crusade,” he cried out. “Not, this time, a crusade of men armed with swords, but a crusade of the young such as ourselves,” his eyes glowed with a fire that seemed to seek out and transfix every youth in the church. “Of children even, armed only with our faith! Follow me!” he cried. “Follow me and we will accomplish what men have failed to do. We will rescue Christendom itself!”

Angeline had heeded his call. It was a way to escape her uncle, but not only that. Stephen’s words had awakened something within her. His dream had spoken to her and she wanted to be part of it...