Title: Out of Many Waters
Author: Jacqueline Dembar Greene
Major Themes: Brazil, Inquisition, Jews, New York, Portugal
Synopsis: Six years after being kidnapped by the Jesuits during the Portuguese Inquisition, two sisters escape from the monastery in Brazil and try to make their way to Amsterdam to find their parents.
Did you know that the Jesuits kidnapped Jewish children in Portugal and took them to Brazil as slaves of the friars during the Portuguese Inquisition in the 1600s? No? How could you possibly have missed that bit of history? To tell the truth, I wouldn’t have ever heard of it either, without reading Out of Many Waters. This is why we read historical fiction. Jacqueline Dembar Greene has done a superb job of making the story of these Jewish children unforgettable. We first read the book about four years ago, and recently finished reading it again. It was amazing to me how much we all remembered from the first reading.
Isobel is now 12 years old, and has been living in Brazil for six years at a monastery. She can barely remember her parents. Her older sister Maria, however, remembers much better, and is determined that they will escape. Their chance comes when they are taken by two of the friars to Recife, a Dutch city, after the Portuguese take control of the city. Maria tells Isobel what to do to get free, and she soon finds herself stowed away on a ship bound for Amsterdam. She is surprised to find a group of Jews on board the ship, and soon finds herself attached to them, although she does not share their belief in God.
The group is soon betrayed and going to be turned over to the Inquisition. Can Isobel admit that it is all her fault? Will she ever be able to trust anyone, either God or the Jewish families who have adopted her? And where will the group end up? Will she ever find her parents or see Maria again? Read the story to learn the surprising answer.
We loved this book. It would fit well with a study of American history (it is set in 1654), as well as world history. This is another reason I’m glad we’ve been using Sonlight Curriculum for so long; we would never have discovered this gem on our own. There is one small inaccuracy we noticed. In chapter 2, the girls go to the hayloft, and one of them stretches out on a bale of hay. I don’t believe there were bales of hay in 1654; it would have been loose hay, which, incidentally, would have been even more comfortable to rest on! Otherwise, the book seems authentic.
WARNING: A sailor is crushed to death in chapter 14, page 125.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults