Author(s): Jackie French
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a truly extraordinary woman. And after 2000 years, the story of her brave and remarkable life continues to inspire and enthrall us, as that young woman from Nazareth was never 'just a girl'. In 72 AD, as the Roman army pillages Judea and destroys their village, fourteen-year-old Judith hides her younger sister, her great-grandmother Rabba, a Roman slave called Caius and an unwilling goat in a cave used to store food. Judith's skills will save them as wolves - and humans - threaten the group during that long, icy winter. There are feasts to enjoy as they listen to Rabba tell stories of her youth; of her wealthy marriage in Jerusalem and her life in Nazareth as a child. But there is one story Rabba will not tell, no matter how much they coax her. It is the story of Maryiam, her beloved friend who faced the scandal and shame of an unwed pregnancy and the anguish of watching the crucifixion. And it is Maryiam's example that will give Judith, her sister and Caius the courage to step beyond their refuge. Because like Judith, Maryiam of Nazareth was never 'just a girl'.
This is great historical fiction with the key character a girl who was never going to be happy living the life ahead of her. Like the land girls of the Second World War, Judith had to take over traditional men's jobs when all the village men went off to fight the Romans. She loved being outside, shepherding the sheep, protecting them with her slingshot (and bringing the occasional bird or coney home for the cooking pot).
Set around 70 A.D., when the Romans sacked Jerusalem, this book takes its inspiration and title from Mary, the mother of Jesus, but really it's an overcoming tragedy book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Kathleen, @ Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop. August 2018.