by Karen Cushman. (Turtleback, 1995. ISBN 9780785761495. Order Info.) Novel. 288 pages. Grades 5-9.
The scene is a manor house in England in 1290 and fourteen-year-old Catherine, the willful, stubborn and delightful daughter of Sir Rollo and Lady Aislinn, has been asked, by her brother the monk, to keep a journal--these are her daily entries for one important year in her life.
Birdy has been promised in marriage to a richer knight than her father. Unfortunately, she finds her future bridegroom to be old, crude and disgusting. We do too. Unlike most of her friends, Birdy rebels against women's work and life. She resents her being bought and sold in order to make her father richer and she has succeeded in driving off all previous suitors.
As we live through a year with Birdy, we learn about village, castle and manor life. We attend fairs, weddings, morality plays, masses and funerals. With Birdy, we visit a monastery. We learn about herbal medicine and the roles played by every station of feudal life. Jews are expelled from England and some stop at the manor house where Birdy, who has been warned about them, looks for their tails and wonders at their humanity.
The skill of Cushman, however, is so great that mostly we learn about Birdy. She's not just there, as are many protagonists in children's historical fiction, as a camera to witness the events for our benefit. She's a fully developed character and by the time you finish this short novel, you'll feel you know her well and regret having to leave her when the year is over.
The afterword sets Birdy's life in a larger context and contains a lot of easily grasped historical information within a few pages, as does the whole book.
These are short stories set in twelfth century France.
Don't be fooled by the title; this is not a fantasy. When Jean, a 15 year old orphan is accused of having a heretical paper in his possession, he escapes the Inquisition rack only by promising to spy on Roger Bacon who is performing suspicious scientific experiments in England.
Set in almost exactly the same time as Catherine, Called Birdy, this much longer novel tells about two young people whose marriage has been arranged against their will. A very wise priest sends them on a mission together during which time they, and we, see much about French life in the middle ages, learn a great deal about themselves and end up pleased about their coming marriage. This is much more challenging reading than the focus book, but equally good.
This picture book introduction to medieval history is centered mostly in southern Europe, but most things were the same in England at the time.
Hyman and Cohen have chosen four tales to retell and illustrate: The Nun's Priest's, The Pardoner's, The Wife of Bath's and The Franklin's. In each case the tale entertains and enlightens but, together with the illustrations, they come to life, revealing much about the times and the people.
In the age of chivalry, Sir Cedric defeats the evil knight and wins the fair maiden. The plot is a spoof, but the illustrations are very informative.
This wordless book shows us the inner workings of a Norman castle at about the time of the focus book.
This alphabet of illuminated letters is full of fascinating information about medieval times.
The peasant wedding and the knight's wedding offer two sides of life in the Middle Ages. Looking at this picture book gives us some idea of what Birdy saw at the milkmaid's wedding and at her brother's wedding.
With detailed drawings and other artwork, we get a glimpse of the life of the time.
Well captioned photographs and drawings make this short book accessible as well as informative.
One of three volumes in a series, this one looks at the life of six representative people: a doctor, a monk, a knight, a lady, a bishop and a heretic.
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