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The Midwife's Apprentice (1995)

by Karen Cushman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,3191122,587 (3.7)124
In medieval England, a nameless, homeless girl is taken in by a sharp-tempered midwife, and in spite of obstacles and hardship, eventually gains the three things she most wants: a full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.
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» See also 124 mentions

English (111)  Dutch (1)  All languages (112)
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
Really enjoyable short medieval fiction about a young foundling who finds her place in the world. Delightful in detail, hard work and hope. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
I would recommend this book mainly for grades 5 through junior-high-aged girls. It is accurate historical fiction. Karen Cushman has other great historical fiction books for girls, too. In this story, the midwife Alyce is fairly cruel to Jane, her young apprentice. The women in the village begin to prefer Jane, which makes for an interesting story.
The tiny village knows nothing of germs and too much of superstition. The village midwife is not a kind person, but a midwife is necessary and she is the only choice. At the time of the story, a midwife used common sense and the little training she received in her apprenticeship. College training was not yet available, and things were simply done the way they had always been done. Many mothers and children died in childbirth during the Middle Ages. Until the twentieth century, most women gave birth at home attended by other women. ( )
  WiseOwlFactory | Feb 20, 2022 |
Engaging story of a 13th century homeless waif who winds up living with a midwife and learning the trade. ( )
  fuzzi | Sep 24, 2021 |
Picked this up for the girls -- it's a Newberry medal winner -- and wound up quite enjoying it myself. ( )
  AmphipodGirl | May 23, 2021 |
The girl hasn't had a name or a home until the midwife found her in the dung heap, keeping warm. The midwife, Jane, is no saint but she does take the girl in, calling her Beetle or Brat, or worse, making her work hard for her keep and not letting her really learn how to birth babies. Can the girl make a place for herself in this world?

There seems to be a certain type of book that appeals to adults who give out awards to kids but that I question whether kids would ever pick up on their own, and this is one of them. The main trouble is, though it is a short book, not much happens. It's much more about the girl - who names herself Alyce - and her growth than any story arc or even one event that happens in her life. Some of the interactions are so subtle I doubt a young reader would pick up on it, like why the boys who tease Beetle eventually leave Alyce alone. It's set in the Middle Ages, and the author has clearly done her research on medicine and midwifery of that time period. But all in all, it was a little boring. ( )
  bell7 | Feb 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karen Cushmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Coleman, CharlotteReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Vizzi, AlessandraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Esteban, ÁngelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hyman, Trina S.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ibatoulline, BagramCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Philip and Dinah,
Alyce's midwives
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When animal droppings and garbage and spoiled straw are piled up in a great heap, the rotting and moiling give forth heat.
Quotations
She chewed on a lock of her hair to help her think. What did people want? Blackberry pie? New shoes? A snug cottage and a bit of land? She thought all that wet afternoon and finally, as she served Magister Reese his cold-beef-and-bread supper, she cleared her throat a time or two and then sofly answered: “I know what I want. A full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.”
If Beetle had known any prayers, she might have prayed for the cat. If she had known about soft sweet songs, she might have sung to him. If she had known of gentle words and cooing, she would have spoken gently to him. But all she knew was cursing: “Damn you, cat, breathe and live, you flea-bitten sod, or I'll kill you myself.”
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In medieval England, a nameless, homeless girl is taken in by a sharp-tempered midwife, and in spite of obstacles and hardship, eventually gains the three things she most wants: a full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.

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A homeless girl in Medieval England finds a place when she becomes a midwife's apprentice.
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