Angel Fish, by Lili Wilkinson

A boy has come to Machery.
I think he might be an angel.
When he speaks, even the birds stop singing to listen. When he speaks, his eyes shine with a light that I know cannot come from dirt and skin. When he speaks, my head whirls round and round with strange thoughts, and my heart goes patter patter patter.

Gabriel is delighted when he meets the charismatic Stephan, who tells him that they must journey to the Holy land to defeat the evil Saracen. Together they march across the country and over the Alps, collecting an army of thousands of children as they go. Their destination is Genoa, where Stephan will part the waters so they can travel across the ocean to the Holy Land.

But as Stephan changes, and the struggles of the journey burden Gabriel and the other children, Gabriel begins to question their journey. Is Stephan really a prophet? And can they defeat the Saracen?

Angel Fish is a breathtaking story based around the historical Children’s Crusade. As author Lili Wilkinson points out in her back of book note, this Crusade has not been well documented, and so what she presents is fictionalised, made very personal by creating a rich cast of characters, including Gabriel and Stephan, as well as the wild orphan Fox-Boy, the sad but loving Ines and the noble boy Eustache.

The resulting tale is breathtaking, poignant and beautiful.

Angel Fish

Angel Fish, by Lili Wilkinson
black dog, 2009

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