Laura Amy Schlitz; Robert Byrd (Illustrator)
Baltimore school librarian, storyteller, and playwright Laura Amy Schlitz has a passion for history. When her fifth grade students were studying the Middle Ages, she set to writing 17 short monologues to stage so each child could have a decent part to memorize. It evolved into this powerful 2008 Newbery Medal winner, a collection of 23 gorgeous narratives, some rhyming, some free verse, told by the children, ages 10 to 15, living in and near an English feudal manor in 1255. There's Taggot the blacksmith's daughter, shoeing a horse for Hugo, Sir Steven's dazzling nephew; Alice the shepherdess who sings to her favorite sheep Jilly to keep her from dying after birthing a stillborn lamb; Jack, the half-wit, who is a secret friend to despised Otho, the miller’s son; and Thomas the doctor's son, who is learning his father's trade. ("A healthy man is careless with a bill— / You have to make them pay when they are ill.") Each character’s monologue reveals more of the intersecting lives of the children, and evokes the sights and the smells of the times, including the muck and the fleas. A running glossary in the margins defines difficult words and concepts. Interspersed throughout are double page spreads—"A Little Background"—on more complex matters including medieval pilgrimage, the Crusades, and Jews in Medieval Society. Delicate ink and watercolor illustrations give the book the priceless feel of an illuminated manuscript. This would be a fine book to use with a children’s theater group, as it’s meant to be read aloud. Other outstanding award-winning titles that give a realistic feel for medieval life in England include Avi's Crispin: The Cross of Lead and three treasures by Karen Cushman: Catherine, Called Birdy; The Midwife's Apprentice; and Matilda Bone.
Reviewed by : JF.
Themes : NEWBERY MEDAL. HISTORICAL FICTION. POETRY. POINT OF VIEW.
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- This unusually fine collection of related monologues and dialogues promises to be a rewarding choice for performance or for reading aloud in the classroom.
Carolyn Phelan, Booklist
- Unusual words (“fraints” are boar droppings) and diverse topics such as religious pilgrimages, the Crusades, crop rotation, and falconry are glossed in welcome, often humorous asides and notes, while Robert Byrd’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations gloriously illuminate a microcosm of medieval life.
Lisa Von Drasek, The Barnes & Noble Review
- But young readers are also likely to find it engaging, affecting and occasionally giggle-worthy – Schlitz is a talented storyteller. Her language is forceful, and learning slips in on the sly.
The New York Times, John Schwartz
- Double-page spreads called “A little background” offer lively information about falconry, The Crusades, pilgrimages and the like. Byrd’s watercolor-and-ink pictures add lovely texture and evoke medieval illustration without aping it. Brilliant in every way.
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
Avi. Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Hyperion, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0786816583
Barrett, Tracy. Anna of Byzantium. Delacorte, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0440415367
Cushman, Karen. Catherine, Called Birdy. Clarion,1994. ISBN-13: 978-0064405843
Cushman, Karen. Matilda Bone. Clarion, 2000. ISBN-13: 978-0440418221
Cushman, Karen. The Midwife’s Apprentice. Clarion, 1995. ISBN-13: 978-0064406307
Hodges, Margaret. Saint George and the Dragon. Little, Brown, 1984. ISBN-13: 978-0316367950
Kimmel, Eric A. The Hero Beowulf. Farrar, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-0374306717
Morpurgo, Michael. Beowulf. Candlewick, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0763632069
Osborne, Mary Pope. Favorite Medieval Tales. Scholastic, 1998. ISBN-13: 978-0439141345
Rumford, James. Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale Retold. Houghton Mifflin, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0618756377
Schlitz, Laura Amy. The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm. Candlewick, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0763627300
Schlitz, Laura Amy. A Drowned Maiden��s Hair: A Melodrama. Candlewick, 2006. ISBN-10: 0763629308
Schlitz, Laura Amy. The Hero Schliemann: The Dreamer Who Dug For Troy. Candlewick, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0763622831
Williams, Marcia, retel. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Candlewick, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0763631970