Apprentice’s Masterpiece, The Share this with a friend

A Story of Medieval Spain

by Melanie Little

White Ravens Collection, International Youth Library, Munich Young Adult Honour Award, Canadian Library Association Silver Award, Nautilus Book Awards Independent Publisher Book Award Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Titles for Children & Teens List Middle East Book Award Best Books for Kids & Teens, starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards finalist YALSA Best Books for Young Adults nomination Stellar Book Award nomination

But there are times / when peace just becomes / a broken mouthful. / A word that no tongue in the world / can pronounce. —from The Apprentice’s Masterpiece

Fifteenth-century Spain is a richly multicultural society in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians coexist. But under the zealous Christian Queen Isabella, the country abruptly becomes one of the most murderously intolerant places on Earth. It is in this atmosphere that the Benvenistes, a family of scribes, attempt to eke out a living. The family has a secret—they are conversos: Jews who converted to Christianity. Now, with neighbors and friends turned into spies, fear hangs in the air.

One day a young man is delivered to their door. His name is Amir, and he wears the robe and red patch of a Muslim. Fifteen-year-old Ramon Benveniste broods over Amir’s easy acceptance into the family. Startling and dramatic events overtake the household, and the family is torn apart. One boy becomes enslaved, the other takes up service for the Inquisitors. Finally, their paths cross again in a stunningly haunting scene.

Melanie Little has crafted a brilliant and elegantly written story in verse about one of the most politically complex and troubling times in human history—the Spanish Inquisition. Drawing on intensive research, Little creates memorable characters, potently captures the turbulent events of the period, and emblazons horrific images on readers’ minds. It is the work of a master. 


“…a riveting read.”
—Quill & Quire, 02/08

“This sophisticated, unbending novel packs an impressive amount of information and intelligent insight into the small space juvenile historical fiction allows ... moments of lyric expression shine out like small jewels.”
—Toronto Star, 03/16/08

“The riveting personal narratives (are) carried forward in remarkable free verse that draws the young reader into a story with obvious parallels in modern life.”
—Globe and Mail, 04/05/08

“Little tells her tale with concise, evocative words that lend a certain beauty to the story—yet it is not a tale of beauty. Rather, the mistrust, corruption and brutality of the Inquisition are laid bare. Highly recommended.”
—CM Magazine, 06/08

“… its themes of young love, betrayal, religious bigotry and friendship will resonate with today’s young readers.”
—Canadian Bookseller Magazine, 06/08

“… a magnificent achievement, a saga that will utterly immerse readers in this troubled time …”
—Canadian Children’s Book News, Spring/08

“The subject and the history are enthralling …”
—Booklist, 06/08

“The brief narrative poems are small gems of insight and emotion …and resonate with contemporary connections.”
—VOYA, 06/08

“This riveting story is peopled by flesh-and-blood characters and replete with … historical detail.”
—School Library Journal, 07/08

“THE APPRENTICE’S MASTERPIECE is like a young person’s KITE RUNNER, a tale … that both educates and enlightens in a time when we could all use a little more understanding of one another.”
—Calgary Herald, 04/08

“Many adolescents relish the opportunity to confront the limits of humanity, and this story will give them plenty to think about.”
—Resource Links, 06/08

“… a gripping tale that will enthrall readers of any age, with enough parallels in the modern world to make it a timely story.”
—Geist 69, 09/08

“… readers looking for a good story set in the Inquisition will not be disappointed.”
— Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, 10/08

“Readers ... will enjoy this historical fiction that hits on the timely theme of what is wrought in the name of religion or nationalism.”
—Jewish Book World, Spring 2009

“Wonderfully written ... Every page is a poem, a place where ... unforgettable characters come alive.”
—Canadian Literature, 12/09