The Midwife's Apprentice

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by Karen Cushman. Novel. 144 pages. Grades 5-9.
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Review

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Cushman has a talent for writing small pithy novels as she did with Catherine Called Birdy. Again in this Newbery Award winner she propels us, within a few pages, into the life of a girl living in the middle ages, makes us like and understand her, shows us a lot about the times and a little bit about ourselves. In The Midwife's Apprentice Cushman presents life at the bottom of the feudal ladder in Medieval times.

Birdy was the daughter of a minor baron and, through her, we had glimpses of the life of the higher classes of the 13th century. Alyce is an insignificant, nameless child living in poverty and sleeping in a dung heap when we first meet her. We know her first as Brat. She is usually ignored and sometimes taunted by the other people in the village. Her progress from a Brat working for scraps of food to Alyce, the Midwife's apprentice, is painful and thought-provoking. By the end of these well-wrought pages, we know Alyce and accept her small steps toward a better life.

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Related Books

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    Grades 5 - 9
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    This is the strongest book we’ve found about life in the middle ages which has a good story and character development as well as good historical information. This is a wonderful book around which to center a study of medieval times. Catherine, the fourteen year old daughter of a minor knight, in 1290 tells us in daily entries about her life. We soon grow to love this outrageous, funny, spirited and rebellious young woman and, in the process of getting to know Catherine, we get to know a lot about life in medieval England: manor life, wedding and funeral customs, village life, castle life, fairs and much, much more. We sympathize with Catherine as her father, whom she constantly compares to a beast, has promised her hand in marriage to an old and, to her, at least, disgusting neighboring knight. Read More in our Featured Book article including classroom activities, related books and links.

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    This is a sensitive book about a boy and his dad who live at the airport. Homelessness is not a common subject for any children's book and a picture book on this small family is a daring deed for Bunting and Himler to attempt. They had to walk a fine line to tell us this story. A misstep in any direction would have brought condescension, oversimplification, false cheerfulness or hopelessness and Fly Away Home is free of all those things. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.

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    So much of the news of young people in our society is sad that it was fun to read It's Our World Too. I thought by the cover that these were all young adults but the chapter that moved me most was about a class of first and second graders in Sweden who bought a rain forest. The writing is personal, emotional and so skillful that the young people cited here seem real and not too good to be true. Their projects were/are worthwhile, possible to emulate, and inspiring. This is a book to hand to students and teachers who are reading about the environment, the homeless, the handicapped and the disenfranchised and are feeling overwhelmed and hopeless about any and all of these problems. Read More.

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