My daughter and I read this book, and while it didn't resonate with my teen, it definitely did with me.
There are lots of books that focus on women in history who were, how shall I say it, extraordinary or revolutionary for their time periods. But very few stories focus on ordinary women and children living and navigating these very different eras with very different norms from our own emphases and expectations for women.
This is one such book. Loma lives in the judería of Alcalá de Henares in Spain, 1483. She wants, more than anything else in the world, to grow up to be a mother. And not just any mother, but a great mother, a mother who is loved and cherished and adored by all the "littles" in her care. This is a deep, abiding want and desire, and it guides all her thoughts and desires in life from a very early age onward.
The plague takes her grandmother, but before her grandmother dies, she passes along her ruby amulet. Losing her grandmother shatters Loma, who slowly but surely ends up basking in her grandfather's attention and learning the fine art of diplomacy from him. He's a tax collector and money lender to the King and Queen of Spain, who tolerate the Jews as long as they continue to pay and collect taxes for the crown.
He takes Loma on his diplomatic journeys, where even the Queen vies for Loma's soul, trying to trick her into converting to Christianity. He suffers from seizures, and it's Loma's job to keep him safe while he's in one and after, so he can recuperate in safety.
She does everything expected of her, but all the while, Loma worries she's getting older and further away from marriageable age and having children of her own.
I won't spoil the ending. I really enjoyed reading this and felt it offered a window into how women in this time period would have thought, even when presented with amazing opportunities to further their world-knowledge and educations.
I think all too often we project how we feel -- or want to feel -- about our roles today onto historical figures, and this book carefully doesn't do that, offering middle grade readers a window into a time period vastly different from what they know now.