Sarah's Stars

Kathleen McDonnell. 1212: Year of the Journey
Second Story Press  $9.95  ISBN 1-897187-11-4  290 pg.
Reviewed by Meghan, Age 15

The crusade of New Innocents is a crusade of peace. It is ordained by God Himself, and no earthly force can stop it. So I will preach here from outside the gates, and God will ensure my voice will be heard. Young people of Gien! Hear me out. I am Étienne, the boy preacher, and I call on you to take up the cross. God wills it!  Dieu le veut! Come join our march to the Holy Land!”

The pilgrims began to chant.

“Join us! Join us! Join us!”

As the chanting built to a deafening roar, a boy suddenly burst through the line of guards at the gate. A couple of men tried to grab him as he passed, but he evaded their grasp and kept running till he reached the crowd of pilgrims, who erupted in cheers.

The year is 1212. All over the medieval world, bloody wars are being waged by people of different religions. It is a time of persecution and fear.

Étienne is a simple shepherd from Cloyes, uneducated and poor. One night, he is visited in a dream by Saint Nicholas, who asks him to lead a crusade of children to liberate the Holy Lands.

Abel is a Jewish boy from Troyes. He is going to school in Paris when he meets Étienne. The boys instantly become friends, although Abel keeps his religion a secret, and together they begin the Children’s Crusade.

Blanche was one of the Cathers of Béziers, before the city and all its people were burned to the ground by Christian knights. Unhappily hiding her religion in the strict abbey she’s grown up in, Blanche hears of Étienne and his crusaders and decides to run away and join him. Together, these three unlikely friends will lead hundreds of children on a crusade unlike any the world has ever seen. But the world is not a kind place, and many of the children will not return from their journey. Will Étienne, Abel and Blanche managed to stay safe and get the children to the Holy Lands? Or will they too perish?

1212 was a fascinating story. Kathleen McDonnell did an excellent job of blending fact and fiction to create a gripping tale. Although the story was well written, the characters excellently portrayed and the plot exciting, I found that I didn’t really like how the story ended. But then again, you can’t exactly change history to make it happier. I’d recommend 1212 for boys and girls, ages 11 to 16. I’d also recommend it to adults who enjoy history and don’t mind reading children’s books.

This reviewer gives 1212: Year of the Journey four crusading stars.

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