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Catherine, Called Birdy (1994)

by Karen Cushman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,250681,907 (3.87)95
The thirteen-year-old daughter of an English country knight keeps a journal in which she records the events of her life, particularly her longing for adventures beyond the usual role of women and her efforts to avoid being married off.
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» See also 95 mentions

English (67)  Catalan (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
This is an epistolary YA novel that’s meant to accurately portray the life of a young lady in 12XX. She’s not a peasant, but she’s certainly no princess in a castle. She has a nice manor and some servants, but what this girl really wants, she can’t seem to get – freedom.

She’s supposed to sew, cook, and do medicine (which involved a lot of herbs), but those are only the in-between times of babymaking. There’s a lot of praying and going to church, as well as playing pranks on others (I think at one point she throws her sewing down the outhouse). Her central conflict comes from loathing the idea of being married off to some stranger. And there are several dinners being introduced to potential suitors that she sabotages. She has more fun playing with the peasant children her age. But they’re doomed to live a life of servitude, and she’s destined to be married off.

I really liked Karen Cushman’s other book The Midwife’s Apprentice which was also period-accurate. I would say this one is better, maybe because it’s simpler. There is no arching plot, since it’s a “slice of life” story. You get to see more of the “typical” events, such as the birthing of a baby, a wedding, traveling Jews. She’s a surprisingly relatable teenager for living over 800 years ago. I think it’s because she’s juuuust outside of adulthood, when she would be all reverent and polite. Instead we get to see her in that transition of child to adult and it’s interesting. Plus, like The Midwife’s Apprentice, it’s rich with medieval history and factoids. I highly recommend it. ( )
  theWallflower | May 16, 2020 |
I probably would have enjoyed this more as a younger reader, but it had some giggle moments for me as an adult too.

Birdy is a bit too modern in her way of thinking but her surroundings are thoroughly medieval, so kudos to the author. I imagine it's a fine line to walk, conveying how different medieval life was to a modern audience via a character who knows nothing else. ( )
1 vote a-shelf-apart | Nov 19, 2019 |
A one year diary of a medieval girl, a lady in a lower knight's manor. She is 13/14 and longs for an independence that no one had in the medieval English world. Her father (the beast) is desperate to marry her off to somebody - anybody. She is equally determined not to marry whatever swine her father chooses.
Other than the ongoing battle with her horror of a father about marriage, there is little ongoing story. Much of the book is simply a commentary on life in 11th century England.
Each day's entry is introduced with a note on a saint. Reading these notes, I wonder at the appeal of sainthood. It seems that most saints died torturous deaths. Seems that would be a strong argument against becoming a Christian rather than weighing in favor the religion. ( )
  fingerpost | Mar 5, 2019 |
I have fond memories reading this book at recess in the 4th grade. I thought the cover made me look sophisticated. Reading books on top of the monkey bars did not get me invited back to the four square team, believe it or not. ( )
1 vote Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
Set in the middle ages, this book is written in diary format. Catherine writes about her life as a woman in medieval times...From trying to avoid an arranged marriage to a "gruesome" man to some of the hygiene issues women faced, this book gives modern readers a glance into the life of a young woman and the trials she faced in 13th century England. "The thirteen-year-old daughter of an English country knight keeps a journal in which she records the events of her life, particularly her longing for adventures beyond the usual role of women and her efforts to avoid being married off." ( )
  Milliky | Jul 16, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karen Cushmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hyman, Trina S.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leister, BryanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to Leah, Danielle, Megan, Molly, Pamela, and Tama, and to the imagination, hope and tenacity of all young women.
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I am commanded to write an account of my days: I am bit by fleas and plagued by family.
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An English knight's daughter growing up in the Middle Ages keeps a diary as she struggles against her father's plans to marry her off to some wealthy boor.
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