The Book of Boy

The Book of Boy

Boy has always been relegated to the outskirts of his small village. With a large hump on his back, a mysterious past, and a tendency to talk to animals, he is often mocked and abused by the other kids in his town. Until the arrival of a shadowy pilgrim named Secondus. Impressed with Boy’s climbing and jumping abilities, Secondus engages Boy as his servant, pulling him int...

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Title:The Book of Boy
Author:Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Book of Boy Reviews

  • Jessica Lawson

    Really enjoyed the voice and story in this one!

  • Czechgirl

    Loved the tale! Many reviews are comparing this to the Inquisitor’s Tale. I did not like The Inquisitor’s Tale. That story bored me. I liked this story much more. The book reminded me of Avi’s Crispin. I really liked the relationship build up of Secundus and Boy. In the end, the needed each other.

  • Leonard Kim

    Like others, I think Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale is the obvious point of comparison. This book is much better written, often beautiful, but uncanny to the point that I wonder if some people will find this inaccessible, especially compared to Gidwitz.

  • Betsy

    When you think about it, many authors of children must have something they’re afraid to write. Some book or idea or concept that tempts them but that they wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. Religion is probably right up there on some people’s lists, regardless of the denomination. Is there a way to incorporate it seamlessly into a fantasy novel, retaining the parts you want, eschewing the rest? Is it wise to include at all? What constitutes religious writing at all? It’s rare that a book writt

    When you think about it, many authors of children must have something they’re afraid to write. Some book or idea or concept that tempts them but that they wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. Religion is probably right up there on some people’s lists, regardless of the denomination. Is there a way to incorporate it seamlessly into a fantasy novel, retaining the parts you want, eschewing the rest? Is it wise to include at all? What constitutes religious writing at all? It’s rare that a book written for kids between the ages of nine to twelve makes me raise such questions at all, but I think a lot of us would agree that

    by Catherine Gilbert Murdock isn’t just any old book. A skillful amalgamation of fantasy, religion, and just a hint of philosophy, Murdock eschews the old good vs. evil narrative for something, perhaps, more interesting: Truth vs. Delusion.

    Everyone calls him Boy and he likes it that way. His is a simple life of tending the goats for the manor in the year 1350. He may be a hunchback and have to deal with the cruelty of kids his age, but life isn’t so bad. That is, until a stranger comes to call. Ostensibly a pilgrim, the man calls himself Secundus. He is in dire need of a boy to help him carry his mysterious pack. That and . . . some other odd jobs, let’s say. Boy doesn’t want to go at first, but as he learns more about Secundus’s quest, he begins to hope against hope. You see, Secundus seeks the relics of St. Peter so as to save his soul. Boy, on the other hand, wants his hump to go away. Could St. Peter help him with that? Or is there more to Boy than even he is willing to admit?

    Generally speaking, Murdock has remained pretty squarely in the camp of the young adult novelist. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s just meant that I haven’t been able to read as many of her books as I’d like. I remember enjoying

    some years ago, of course. In this book for younger readers she scales back her text. Which, by extension, means reigning in character exposition as well. With the very first chapter we need to not only meet Boy but also love him. We also meet Secundus, and, like Boy, we don’t know what to make of him. The chapter itself is no longer than seven pages. How do you establish character in so short an amount of time? In the case of Boy, Murdock opts to show us his kindness and joy. He loves his life, as you can clearly see, just as much as he loves his goats. Secundus is introduced as insulting and brash in the first chapter, but in the second he defends Boy from a bully. Even then, you don’t know what to make of him. Excellent fodder for a story, don’t you think?

    We live in times when people create fantasy novels for children exceeding three hundred, four hundred, sometimes even five hundred pages or more. All this to bring them stories they haven’t heard a hundred times before. It’s given me a taste for brevity, if nothing else. My husband has a phrase he likes to use when he sees a film that’s under two hours: “handsome”. Well, in every sense of the word

    is a “handsome” novel. Weighing in at 278 pages the book could easily have been little more than one hundred if it had been printed a different way. No expense has been spared in its production. The pages are thick and beveled. The original artist assigned to it was exchanged for Ian Schoenherr, a man capable of replicating a very specific woodblock style. It’s a class act from start to finish, but even more than that it’s a book that knows how to distill an adventure down to its most singular elements. There’s not a word, a thought, or a concept out of place.

    If kids complain about anything with this book, though, it’ll probably concern how little additional information we receive about Boy throughout the text. Just as a warning, I’m going to spill the beans on the big reveal in this book, so if you’re spoiler-averse I’d advise you to skip on down to the next paragraph. All set? Okay. So as I mentioned earlier, putting a big dollop of religion in your middle grade fantasy is by no means unheard of, it’s just tricky to pull off. Adam Gidwitz gave it a good shot in

    and received a Newbery Honor for his troubles. Murdock is traipsing along similar lines, but where Gidwitz is loquacious, she’s circumspect. Where he’s effusive she’s restrained. Both books involve angels, but where Gidwitz’s is all-knowing, Murdock’s could not be less well informed about, well, anything. We don’t really learn anything about him that he himself didn’t already know. Where he came from, why he’s here, and what he’s supposed to do . . . these are all left to the reader’s interpretation. Murdock’s giving you the dots, but you’re going to have to connect them yourself. Nothing is done for the reader here.

    I can only speak for myself, but the real lure of this book might not be the characters, the mysteries, the setting, or even the mysterious relics. The book has something a little more difficult to pin down, and even harder to attain. It’s a sheer pleasure to read. I mean it. The chapters whiz on by, daring you to put the book down for even one iota of a second. Somehow Murdock has managed to write something simultaneously archaic in form and incredibly enticing to the modern eye. And it really doesn’t matter if the Christianity here gels with your own religious beliefs or strikes you as 100% foreign. Boy is the kind of character you can’t help but love. You want to go with him on this journey and, more to the point, you want him to see it to its end. If Boy is the living embodiment of kindness and joy, I can think of no better guide for young readers to encounter. We have a lot of dark, depressing, necessary books out there. Once, just once, let’s enjoy the one unafraid to let a little light and laughter in.

    For ages 9-12.

  • Alex (not a dude) Baugh

    When I was in grad school, I had a passion for the medieval period. Unfortunately, I was in a small German department that didn't have its own medievalist, though we did have some wonderful visiting professors. Still, it meant I couldn't write my first choice dissertation. Nevertheless, I continue to have a soft spot for books set during this time period, which is why I was drawn to The Book of Boy.

    The story begins in France in 1350, shortly after the plague had swept through. Boy is tending the

    When I was in grad school, I had a passion for the medieval period. Unfortunately, I was in a small German department that didn't have its own medievalist, though we did have some wonderful visiting professors. Still, it meant I couldn't write my first choice dissertation. Nevertheless, I continue to have a soft spot for books set during this time period, which is why I was drawn to The Book of Boy.

    The story begins in France in 1350, shortly after the plague had swept through. Boy is tending the goats at the manor of Sir Jacques, a knight with a traumatic brain injury from a joust and who can no longer speak or move. Boy is an excellent jumper and climber despite the large hump on his back, and also has the unique ability to understand what animals are thinking.

    One day, a pilgrim named Secundus arrives at the manor, sees Boy's climbing ability, and convinces the cook, now the wife of Sir Jacques, to let him take Boy on his pilgrimage. Secundus is collecting seven relics of St. Peter, which are to be found throughout France and Rome. Secundus, who is quite ill, believes that if he can collect all seven relics, he will be allowed to enter Paradise when he dies, and be reunited with his wife and child, both of whom died from the plague. Needless to say, Secundus didn't exactly lead a good, honest life, which is why he needs the relics.

    As the two travel, it soon becomes clear to Boy that their journey isn't the honest quest he believed it would be. Instead, Secundus drags Boy into some pretty shady situations, stealing, fighting, and getting in all kinds of dangerous situations. Even though Boy knows what they are doing is wrong, he stays with Secundus for his own reasons - maybe, just maybe, if they make it to Rome, he will get his wish to be a "real boy."

    Boy has always been picked on and bullied because of his hump. He had been told never to reveal himself to anyone by Father Petrus, who had cared for Boy until he too died from the plague, and Boy always thought it was because of his hump. But, as the story moves along, Boy becomes more and more aware of who he is. And it is definitely not who he thought he was (and, given this twist, he was not who I thought he was, either).

    The Book of Boy is narrated by Boy, who gives the readers a wonderfully informative window into life during the medieval period, particularly what happened during the height of the plague in France, and the fears of its return. He is a wonderful character, a really sweet innocent, despite being an outcast who has been bullied, ridiculed, and physically attacked all his life. At first, I was a little turned off by his ability to understand what animals were thinking, but as the story progressed, I found it to be more and more interesting, a unique way of providing the reader with necessary information. Consequently, for that reason and others, this book becomes a nice mix of realistic and fantastic fiction.

    Secundus, who always smells like brimstone to Boy, is as mysterious a character as Boy. A scoundrel and a thief, his story is slowly revealed along with Boy's and by the time the novel ends, readers will surely realize that sometimes people just aren't who they appear to be. But getting to that point is quite a journey.

    The Book of Boy is fast, informative, at times cruel, and at other times, fun, particularly some of the conversations between Boy and various animals. I sat down to read it one evening and didn't get up until I finished. And I spent lots of time studying the wonderful woodcut-style illustrations by Ian Schoenherr. Pay attention to the cover - it traces the quest of Secundus and Boy in a most interesting way.

    The Book of Boy satisfied my medieval cravings like no book has recently. It is an interesting quest into what is good and what is evil, and why, and hopefully, Boy's story will serve as a nice addition to books for young readers about this underrepresented time period.

    This book is recommended for readers age 9+

    This book was borrowed from the NYPL

  • Jordan Henrichs

    Think Gidwitz's The Inquisitor's Tale and Whalen Turner's The Thief. Medieval setting, Mission Impossible-like quest for religious relics, and a few fun plot twists. Fun and original.

  • Destinee Sutton

    Comparisons to The Inquisitor's Tale are unavoidable, but truly they are such different books. I prefer the Gidwitz because it had better character development and the creativity knocked my socks off. The Book of Boy is a great yarn that really had me engaged. I raced through it, but once I finished it I felt a bit unsatisfied.

    I think mature middle grade readers will enjoy this, especially if they are interested in Catholicism, Christianity, the Middle Ages, and/or mysteries with big plot twist

    Comparisons to The Inquisitor's Tale are unavoidable, but truly they are such different books. I prefer the Gidwitz because it had better character development and the creativity knocked my socks off. The Book of Boy is a great yarn that really had me engaged. I raced through it, but once I finished it I felt a bit unsatisfied.

    I think mature middle grade readers will enjoy this, especially if they are interested in Catholicism, Christianity, the Middle Ages, and/or mysteries with big plot twists. It is exceptionally well-written.

    It's hard to talk about my criticisms of this book without spoilers, so I'll hide the rest of this review.

  • Heidi

    Well-written, but odd. And the medieval setting makes it unlikely that many kids will pick it up. The strong religious elements may create strong feelings as they did with me.

  • Jayne Bartrand

    Read as a possibility to use with our MockNewbery committee of 6th grader readers this year.

    Medieval quest collecting relics; I cared about how the story turned out, but it was work to get there and the "payoff" was predictable as author gave plenty evidence along the way.

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