Considered an epic of courage and a book of high principle in today's world to inspire teenagers, Ring the Judas Bell by James Forman is a deeply serious story reflecting the fury, destruction, and pathos of modern-day unrest.
Charged with electricity and tenderness, this book is compelling for its tension, power, and solid grasp of character. Unbearable conflicts and tragic episodes are handled with the stark realism that goes to the heart of the issues behind the times….
In developing its dominant theme, "the power of the spirit to triumph even when it seems to fail most bitterly," the story traces the plans for escape that courageous Nicholos makes with the embittered children and his antagonistic sister. Sustained only by the memories of his idealistic father and the ideals for which the bell stood, the sturdy youth manfully leads the children past every imaginable hardship to their village home. (p. 327)
Although cruel and pitiful, the story is graced with truth and tenderness because it is written with integrity and from conviction. Stark, vivid realities fill in the framework of a historical structure that is sound and compelling. And without falsifying "history's fundamental record" of events during the dark years of Greek civil war, the book gives a poignant, dramatic account of ruthlessness and despair, yet not without pointing up the optimistic theme of man's power to triumph even in the midst of chaos and failure….
[Ring the Judas Bell] tolls still another message: it reminds young readers and the world of war's grim and savage futility. (p. 328)
Constantine Georgiou, "History in Children's Literature," in his Children and Their Literature (© 1969 by Prentice-Hall, Inc.; reprinted by permission of Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey), Prentice-Hall, 1969, pp. 303-58.∗