In this debut middle-grade novel, a boy discovers history and adventure along the Camino de Santiago.
Walk 500 miles in Spain? On a 1,200-year-old pilgrimage route? For 11-year-old Jamie Bacon, the prospect means an end to his favorite activities. But his parents are enthusiastic about traveling to Santiago de Compostela as part of their home-schooling plans for Jamie and his sister, Lily, 13. When Jamie’s father can’t come, the boy’s already sour attitude worsens. Nevertheless, his interest is sparked by several fellow travelers, such as Marley, a New Zealand teacher who tells fascinating historical stories and, forging ahead, leaves notes along the way for the siblings to find. Also intriguing is a large, mysterious taped envelope that two pilgrims have entrusted to Jamie, who’s promised to deliver it in Santiago de Compostela—and to keep his mission secret. Jantzen, in her book, gives readers, along with Jamie and Lily, a chance to learn some “geography, history, art, architecture” connected with the Camino. The author will keep readers’ attention with adventures, surprises, and lively descriptions, as with Marley’s telling of La Chanson de Roland and its “characters galore, plus battles and wicked tricks.” Jamie’s petulance and anger sometimes get him into trouble, but he also gains maturity and receives several chances to play hero (a few too many times). Some plot details are questionable; Jamie’s emotional attachment to Marley seems overstated, as when his skin tingles at the thought of seeing her. Jamie’s mother is suspicious of “two anonymous guys who use an innocent kid to be their messenger,” but the book undercuts her extremely reasonable doubt by emphasizing the importance of promise-keeping and giving Jamie’s errand a positive outcome.
An entertaining and informative journey of discovery, both inner and outer.
Pub Date: yesterday
Page Count: 350
Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2020