Review: A Ceiling Made of Eggshells


Review: A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Meg Wiviott

Loma loves taking care of her young nieces and nephews – her “littles”. More than anything else, she wants to be a Mamá with a husband and children of her own. But Loma’s grandfather, Belo, an influential advisor to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, wants her to accompany him as he travels throughout Spain helping Jews and conducting royal business. At first, Loma is thrilled; she is seven years old when Belo notices her aptitude with numbers and singles her out from all her siblings. But the years pass and Belo refuses to look for a husband for her. Loma resigns herself to having the “littles” as her only children. After the King and Queen inform Belo and his friend Don Solomon Bohor, another Royal advisor, of their plans to banish all the Jews from Spain, Belo is incapacitated by an illness. Fearing the royal couple may kidnap him and forcibly baptize him, now sixteen-year-old Loma must save her grandfather and herself. 


A Ceiling Made of Eggshells is a sweeping story of the lead up to Spain’s expulsion of the Jews in 1492. Written for middle grade readers, Gail Carson Levine keeps the historical truth age appropriate. Loma encounters prejudice and anti-Semitism within the first few chapters. She encounters it more intimately as she grows and the story progresses, learning that life for Jews in Spain is as precarious as a ceiling made of eggshells. Levine deftly inserts historical horrors without gratuitousness. Though the story is a bit slow in the beginning, the pace picks up and the final chapters are fast-paced and filled with real danger. 


This book meets all the criteria required for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. Thoroughly researched and beautifully told, this is an important contribution to the to a topic rarely covered in children's literature. 


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Reviewer Meg Wiviott is the author of the YA novel in verse PAPER HEARTS, which received a 2016 Christopher Award. Her picture book, BENNO AND THE NIGHT OF BROKEN GLASS, was selected as one of SLJ’s Best Picture Books of 2010 and made CCBC’s Best Choice List. She holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.