Book review: Crusade In Jeans (by Thea Beckman)

Title: Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek (Dutch), Crusade In Jeans (English)
Author: Thea Beckman
Page count: 363 pages (paperback movie edition, Dutch)
Rating: 5/5 stars


*This review does contain some spoilers, though I tried not to give anything too important away. Still, read it at own risk.

Also, yes this is a Dutch book, but it is available in English too. I don`t know if the translation is any good, as I`ve only read it in Dutch, but if you want to, you can find it abroad.

Crusade In Jeans is a Dutch children`s/teenagers book by Dutch author Thea Beckman. It`s a very well known book here, and I too have (apparently) read it when I was younger. Except that I had forgotten pretty much all of it, so this felt like I read it for the first time. The version I own is the movie version, in Dutch, which is a rarity as I don`t like to read in Dutch usually.

But I really loved this book. Even in Dutch.

The story is about Rudolf, a teenager from modern Netherlands, whose father is friends with some scientists. Rudolf goes to visit them, and they explain that they`re building a type of time machine, but it`s not working right yet. “If only we had actual humans who could tell us if it works! But they need to weigh less than 60kg!” they lament to Rudolf, who loves the thought of an adventure and somehow manages to convince two adult scientists to send a teenager to medieval France in an untested machine. But instead of France, Rudolf ends up in Germany in a different century and gets stuck there just as the children`s crusade passes by. He notices a lot of children in the back falling over or even dying right there from fatigue, hunger and illness, and decides to join the crusade to help the children. But not everyone is happy about Rudolf joining them…

Sure, you can tell the book is aimed at younger children (the aimed audience is about 12, though it`s definitely readable above that age – in fact, I`d personally recommend 14/15). The language use is simple, quick, easy to read and understand, nothing too difficult but nothing too innocent either. This book doesn`t leave out important topics, and definitely tries to give a clear image – if somewhat romanticised – of what it was like to live in 12th century Europe. It deals with poverty, the different classes, hunger, the differences between 12th century society and 20th century society – and the parts that didn`t change. It also deals with betrayal, religious extremism, crime and child slavery.

And here`s a trigger warning too: there are a lot of deaths. And I do really mean a lot, even some characters you`ll grow to love. Still, despite all the serious topics, this is a surprisingly light book.

There are a lot of things you just kind of have to gloss over as an adult and accept that they`re used as means to further the plot. Like the aforementioned lamenting scientists who agree to sending a teenager away suspiciously easily. However, the bonus of reading it when you`re a bit older is that you recognise little tidbits that might (or might not, depending on your level of knowledge) slip by when you`re younger, like Leonardo Fibonacci, the famous mathematician, except as a teenager.

I recommend this book to anyone from age 14 who is interested in history and is willing to ignore some silly things that are extremely unreasonable but obviously just there to advance the plot. Ignore that, and you have yourself a lovely book about history, about perseverance, loyalty, friendship, betrayal and regret.

This was the last book I`ll read for 2014, and I`ll start reading books again in 2015. If you have any recommendations for me for the upcoming year, feel free to let me know in the comments! And if you`ve read this book or any other book I`ve reviewed, let me know what you thought of it.

Take care!

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