Yonatan is eleven years old; old enough, in his opinion, for his parents to stop calling him Yoni and to be treated with more respect. But there are bigger concerns facing Yonatan, his family, and the entire city of Jerusalem. Sancheriv, the evil king of Ashur, is determined to conquer the Jews’ homeland and lay siege to the city. With its siege machines and strong fighting force, the enemy will soon be poised to attack.
When Yonatan’s father is requested to help dig a tunnel to bring water from a spring into Jerusalem, providing a source of water if Sancheriv’s military surrounds the city, the boy sees his chance to do more than perform household chores. He convinces his father to take him as an apprentice, and finds himself working alongside the miners as they race against time to complete the tunnel.
The tunnel is barely finished and ready to supply water to Jerusalem when Yonatan sees a suspicious man, dressed in black from head to foot, lingering around the work site. The fact that none of the miners are concerned does not allay his fears. Yonatan’s apprehension proves justified when, unable to sleep one night, he sees the man in black. Slipping out of the house, he follows the possible spy to the pool at the end of the tunnel. When the man enters the passageway, Yonatan takes advantage of his familiarity with every curve – and meets up with his quarry at the blocked end of the tunnel. It is up to the eleven-year-old to escape the spy’s clutches and make it back into the city in time to warn the soldiers before the enemy can slip away.
Joy Nelkin Wieder’s fast-paced story, based on historical facts, will keep readers turning the pages until the exciting conclusion. Yonatan comes across as a normal boy on the threshold of adolescence: he is not above playing soldier with his younger brother, yet wants to prove himself as a valuable member of society. With humor and attention to detail, The Secret Tunnel paints a vivid portrait of Jewish life in Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah. The faith and determination of Yonatan, his family, and the Jews of Jerusalem make for an uplifting tale.
Black-and-white illustrations by the author bring the setting to life. A valuable note at the end describes the construction of the tunnel over 2,700 years ago, its discovery by local children in 1880, and the tunnel today. Perfect for historical fiction buffs, kids who enjoy action-packed novels with a message, and readers who like inspiring stories. This treasure is a winner all around. 120 pages. Ages 7-10.
Recommended by Barbara Karp, Librarian, New York, USA