Title: Crusade in Jeans
Author(s): Thea Beckman
No. of pages: 307
Genre: Children’s fiction, Historical fiction, Young Adult
Publication date: 1973
Date read: April 14th 2018
Rudolf Hefting of Amsterdam thought he was engaged in an experiment that would take him back to the Middle Ages to a tournament of knights. But by a miscalculation of the computer, he arrives in the Rhineland at the exact time that the Children’s Crusade is passing through. A stranded traveler in time, Rudolf joins the immense children’s army — almost 10,000 strong. With Rudolf, the reader struggles to understand how it was possible that children between the ages of 6 and 15 thought they could travel across Europe, then cross the sea to drive away the Saracens from the Holy Land. They had no weapons, transportation, or money; they experienced hunger, epidemics, and death. The dreadful conditions he encounters compel him to use his 20th-century knowledge to try to create order out of chaos. In spite of himself, he becomes a leader and organizer. And along the way he also experiences loyal friendships, courage, and devotion to God.
How lovely it was to revisit a childhood story! I love history, but somehow it wasn’t the class I got the best grades in. I think it’s more the stories that interest me! Like Crusade in Jeans (or Kruistocht in spijkerbroek). The main character Dolf says at one point something along the way of that you get to know all about the rich “important” men of history, but not so much about the “normal” human. And those are who interest me the most actually! It was also a period in time I didn’t get to know much about in history class, so it’s really refreshing to fill in the gaps a bit. The Children’s Crusade really did take place in 1212, but of course, not in the way it’s portrayed in the book. Still, Crusade in Jeans gives the reader the most important messages of living in that age across – the differences between the rich and the poor, Christian faith and just how different the world was back then, compared to the one we live in now!
I really lived for every single character of the book, except for maybe one – the bad guy. I won’t tell you their name, because that would spoil the fun and this story is really worth the read as it’s slowly building up to its climax! One of the only things that bugged me was maybe that Dolf was a little too clever for his age. He knew things I definitely didn’t know at 16 or didn’t want to know, because I was too busy with hating the world like any other teenager. Another thing was the ending – it was kind of open! I just wanted to keep on reading (so actually not really a bad thing after all ;)). The story just wasn’t over for me!
I read this book in Dutch and the language was kind of old fashioned. I don’t think the young generation of today can relate to Dolf that much, but then again, the story will never get old!