________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 04 . . . . September 24, 2010


Crusades. (Kids @ The Crossroads).

Laura Scandiffio. Illustrated by John Mantha.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2009.
72 pp., pbk. & hc., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-146-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-147-1 (hc.)

Subject Heading:
Crusades -Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Shannnon Ratcliffe.

**** /4


"I left Cyprus with the pilgrims. We landed at Acre and headed south. Two days ago we took refuge in a Christian fortress, and now we are in more danger than ever. The Saracen army is camped in the distance; if I peek through the narrow window, I can see their torches in the dark. They came yesterday, and everyone expects and attack at first light. I'm told they've come for revenge.

Crusades, part of the "Kids @ The Crossroads" series, is a masterpiece of genius. Children's author Laura Scandiffio has touched on exactly the format of book that makes sense to this Internet-savvy generation of readers. By copying the popular blog style format and even designing a type of "pop-up" window (without lift the flaps, I might add) to allow the reader a bit more information on certain key topics, she's created something that is completely unique. In the same way that the Dear Diary type of book captures young girls' imaginations by allowing the reader to see the world through the eyes of the journalist, this book titillates with that same "reading someone's thoughts." However the format of old journals doesn't always appeal to all readers - for them, Scandiffio and Mantha have created "Kids @ The Crossroads".

     This book concerning the Crusades, beyond being on a topic of high adventure and exciting times, gives the reader the change to tag along in some "firsthand" experiences of life as a child in the year 1212. In its pages, the reader finds old maps, famous paintings, rules to ancient games and even a guide to military dress. There is just so much to this book that it keeps calling to the reader back to discover more.

     Artist John Mantha has outdone himself in the artistic aspect of this book - drawing pictures that appear as "pics" in the blog posts and look truly like they could be candid snapshots of life during the crusades. For the reluctant reader, I think the art alone could inspire some reading effort to find out the content of the book - it is outstanding. This book is a must-have for any grade 4-6 classroom shelf, and I think possibly on its merit alone it would be worthwhile to look at the other book in the series available from Annick Press, Aztecs.

Highly Recommended.

Shannnon Ratcliffe is a Home Educating teacher-librarian in Ontario withstudents ranging from kindergarten to high school.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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