Cover image for A ceiling made of eggshells
A ceiling made of eggshells

1st ed.
Physical Description:
371 pages ; 22 cm.
From age seven, Loma relishes traveling with her beloved grandfather across fifteenth-century Spain, working to keep the Jews safe, but soon realizes she must also make sacrifices to help her people. Includes historical notes, recipe, glossary, and a link to a bibliography.


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In A Ceiling Made of Eggshells, Newbery Honor-winning author Gail Carson Levine tells a moving and ambitious story set during the expulsion of Jews from Spain, about a young Jewish girl full of heart who must play her own role in her people's epic history--no matter the sacrifice.

Surrounded by her large family, Loma is happy living in the judería of Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and wants nothing more than to someday have a family of her own.

Still, when her intimidating grandfather, her Belo, decides to bring her along on his travels, she's excited to join him. Belo has the ear of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and Loma relishes her adventures with him, adventures that are beyond the scope of most girls of the time. She soon learns just how dangerous the world is for the Jews of Spain, and how her grandfather's influence keeps their people safe.

But the older Loma gets, the more she longs to realize her own dreams--if Belo will ever allow her to leave his side.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5--8--Readers first meet Loma, a young Jewish girl living in late 15th-century Spain, when she is seven years old. Readers watch as she navigates life as the granddaughter of a powerful Jewish leader. As the title of Levine's new novel suggests, Spain in the late 1400s was a perilous place for Jewish people. This was the time of the Spanish Inquisition, during which the Jewish community was persecuted and ultimately exiled from Spain. Loma's grandfather is one of the wealthy Jewish figures who uses his connections, money, and skills to help Jewish people and tries to prevent forced conversions to Christianity. As her grandfather's traveling companion across Spain, Loma gets a firsthand look at the superstitions, ceremonies, and sacrifices that governed daily life during a cataclysmic and dangerous time. Loma witnesses, up close, King Ferdinand's and Queen Isabella's efforts to "defeat the infidel," meaning Spain's Muslim people. She also observes her grandfather's efforts to keep her people temporarily safe from harm. Although she loves and respects her grandfather, Loma is also devoted to her parents and siblings and looks forward to being married and starting her own family. She is loyal to her beloved grandmother's memory and is a loving aunt to the "littles," as she refers to her growing number of nieces and nephews. Levine skillfully juxtaposes the larger religious battles taking place in Spain with Loma's dreams for her future. VERDICT This story of adventure and bravery under unstable circumstances will appeal to mature readers who enjoy historical fiction and tales of courage.--Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA

Publisher's Weekly Review

This sweeping historical novel illuminates the plight of a Jewish family in Spain during the late 15th century. Precocious narrator Loma is just seven when her facility with numbers endears her to her influential financier abuelo after his wife, her beloved abuela, dies in a plague outbreak. Her status as his favorite proves a mixed blessing and one of the narrative's essential tensions. Loma becomes increasingly indispensable to her grandfather as he travels across Spain collecting taxes for the country's monarchs. As she grows older, however, his requirements of her mean that she must postpone her desire to marry and have children. Infusing her title with historical details about costume, food, and customs, Newbery Honoree Levine (Ella Enchanted) deftly conveys the obstacles facing the Jewish community under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, among them the Inquisition, pressure to convert to Christianity, and eventually expulsion from Spain. Though the narrative unspools slowly, pacing builds considerably in the final chapters as 16-year-old Loma memorably navigates tumult and danger, bravely taking control of her destiny. Ages 8--12. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (May)

Kirkus Review

Life for Spain's Jews in the late 15th century was as precarious as a ceiling made of eggshells, ready to crash at any moment. Paloma is sensitive, inquisitive, and highly intelligent, attributes that will both cause her intense pain and keep her alive. Her grandfather is an important figure in Spain's Jewish community, using his wealth and political acumen to deal with the powerful Christians, including Ferdinand and Isabella, who rule the country, all in the service of keeping Jews from harm. Loma becomes his constant companion and aide, traveling with him across Spain on his missions. As she grows to maturity she is denied the opportunity to marry, though it is her dearest wish to have her own children. Levine seamlessly weaves historical facts with day-to-day life concerning food, clothing, prayers, rituals, superstitions, and the social orders both within the locked judería and without, among Christian and Moorish Spaniards. Jews must always be wary, for bizarre accusations are made that incite mob violence against them. They face kidnapping, forced conversion, torture and execution at the hands of the Inquisition, and, finally, expulsion from Spain. Loma tells all her fears and worries, how she finds solace in counting, her plans and dreams, and her deep love for her family as well as her hurt and anger as she faces grave dangers and loss. Heart pounding and heart wrenching in equal measure. (author's note, recipe, glossary) (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

In 1483, the Inquisition cast a shadow over many living in Spain. Born into a powerful Jewish family, young Loma becomes a traveling companion and, increasingly, caretaker and advisor for Belo, her ailing, autocratic grandfather. For years, she watches and learns as he uses his wiles, his family's wealth, and his longstanding relationships with the Spanish monarchs and archbishops to protect the Jews. As she matures, Loma aches to marry and raise a family, but she must set that dream aside. And by 1492, when the Jews are expelled from Spain, her experiences on the road have brought her the wits, wisdom, and determination she needs to survive and help her people. Inspired by family history, Levine's latest novel offers a fascinating portrayal of Loma as a shy, conciliatory, intelligent child whose unusual upbringing leads to broad understanding and insights into power. The first-person narrative uses details of daily life to bring the period more sharply into focus for readers, while the appended author's note offers further information. A well-researched historical novel from an accomplished storyteller.