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Matilda Bone Hardcover – October 16, 2000

52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of Cushman's previous medieval novels (Catherine, Called Birdy; The Midwife's Apprentice) may be disappointed with this historical adventure set in "Blood and Bone Alley" in the town of Chipping Bagthorpe. Unlike Catherine and Brat, heroines whose combination of rebelliousness and resourcefulness made them instantly likeable, 13-year-old Matilda is less winning than her supporting cast. The daughter of a wealthy lord's clerk and a mother who fled soon after her birth, Matilda finds herself orphaned when her father dies. As the novel opens, her self-appointed guardian, Father Leufredus, has just dropped her off at the meager lodgings of Red Peg the Bonesetter to learn Peg's trade. Fresh from the intolerant Father's tutelage, Matilda, in her zealous piety, snubs Peg and inadvertently thwarts the woman's work: more than once, while lost in prayer, the girl ruins a salve or a simple meal of porridge. Thus readers don't get the same insider's view of the bonesetter's apprenticeship that they saw of midwifery through Brat's eyes. The promise of a potential villain, Master Theobold, "the leading physick" who prizes money over healing, is never realized; the development of Matilda's friendship with another girl takes place mostly offstage; and, strangely, there are two denouements, in which Matilda makes the same realization that she has been wrong about Peg (one involving an ailing stranger whom she is treating, the other the apothecary's apprentice). Fiery Peg, her witty husband and her circle of friends will be the characters readers remember. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-8-A fascinating glimpse into the colorful life and times of the 14th century. Orphaned Matilda, 13, has lived the good life in a manor where she was well educated by Father Leufredus. Things change drastically, however, when he abandons her, leaving her to serve as an assistant to a bonesetter in return for food and shelter. Matilda is expected to cook the meals, tend the fire, and generally assist Red Peg. And Peg has her hands full dealing with this self-righteous, pious child who snobbishly sprinkles Latin in her everyday speech and continuously brags about her ability to read and write. Peg, however, allows Matilda time to ponder her new role and teaches her, by example, that kindness and friendship go a long way toward lessening the harshness of life in this small English village. Matilda constantly prays for help, guidance, and deliverance. The saints, and this child knows many, respond with humor and sometimes sound advice. The theology espoused by Matilda is consistent with the time period and Father Leufredus has taught her well. She has no thoughts of her own-only the musing and learning of Father Leufredus. She stiffly withholds herself from all attempts at friendship and kindness, and she feels more and more alone. However, when she meets a kitchen maid who joyfully introduces her to the market square, her eyes slowly open to the world around her. Readers witness her spiritual and emotional growth as she blossoms from a self-centered "nincompoop" to a compassionate, competent assistant. Cushman's character descriptions are spare, with each word carefully chosen to paint wonderful pictures. This humorous, frank look at life in the medical quarters in medieval times shows readers that love and compassion, laughter and companionship, are indeed the best medicine.
Kit Vaughan, Midlothian Middle School, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 850L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (October 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395881560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395881569
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,244,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Cushman was born in Chicago, Illinois and lives now on Vashon Island west of Seattle, Washington. She received an M.A. in human behavior and one in museum studies. Ms. Cushman has had a lifelong interest in history. She says, "I grew tired of hearing about kings, princes, generals, presidents. I wanted to know what ordinary life was like for ordinary young people in other times." Research into medieval English history and culture led to the writing of her first two novels, the Newbery Honor book CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY and the Newbery Medal-winner THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE. She is also the author of MATILDA BONE, THE BALLAD OF LUCY WHIPPLE, RODZINA, and most recently ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Herman HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was so happy when I got this book, because I've been waiting for a new novel from Karen Cushman ever since The Ballad of Lucy Whipple came out, and that was back in 1996. Matilda Bone does not dissapoint. Some professional reviewers have called Matilda whiny and unlikeable, but I disagree. I came to care about Matilda, and watching her learn and grow. In fact, I devoured this book in one setting. The story is about fourteen-year-old Matilda, who was raised on a manor in the Middle Ages after her mother runs off and her father dies. For the most part, her bringing up is handled by a priest who tells her that little more that piety matters. So when she comes to Blood and Bone Alley to work as an apprentice to Red Peg the Bonesetter, she can do little else but believe that since the people she is surrounded by do not pray constantly, they are ungodly. I could understand Matilda's unhappiness - she was torn from the only home she knew, and her extrene religious views were a byproduct of her upbringing. Don't listen to the professional reviewers; I'm a fifteen-year-old reader, and I loved this book!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
One thing that I find commendable about fiction writers like Karen Cushman is that they bring history to life for young readers. It's one thing to study medieval times in the classroom, but when a young person can absorb that history through the fictional life of a character in a story, history becomes much more interesting. Karen Cushman has always succeeded on that level with her earlier books, and does so in this one also. I think that another reason this new book succeeds is because it offers the story of a character out of her own element. Matilda leaves all that she finds familiar and comfortable, to enter an existence where all her rules of life until now no longer apply. The culture clashes that follow provide the reader with humor, and encourage empathy for Matilda. I bet that each young person who reads this will wonder, "What would I do in that situation?". And with that question in mind, the reader will be hooked on the story of Matilda Bone. What more could an author (or reader) want than that?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Matilda is used to a life of material pleasures. She lives in a manor with Father Leufredus. He has to go to London and Matilda is dropped off at Blood and Bone alley with Red Peg the bonesetter. She is there dubbed Matilda Bone. She instantly hates the new life, for Red Peg doesn't follow any of the rules that Father Leufredus taught her to always obey. She eventually comes to realize that life with Red Peg is better than the life she lived before, for she has friends and people to be with. She realizes that Father Leufredus' rules aren't always the law, and that made me really happy because she was getting really worked up over the fact that Red Peg wasn't perfect.
I loved this book and the topic that it was based around: Medieval medicine. I think Karen Cushman is one of the best authors around, and since Medieval England is a subject that I find very interesting, I have loved all of her books on the subject. I'm currently 13, and this book was definitely below my reading level, but I loved it all the same. It's a book that I think could be read by 5th grade and up. Enjoy!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Aletheia Knights on March 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
I had every reason to believe that I would love this book. I enjoy historical fiction, and I've long been fascinated by medieval Europe. Perhaps more importantly, I thought Matilda would be a character I could relate to. As a deeply spiritual intellectual forced by life circumstances to become less elitist and a little more grounded, I expected to see echoes of my own life in Matilda's story.

To some extent, I did - but I struggled to enjoy this book nevertheless. The author seems more interested in making a case against the stodginess of organized, orthodox religion than in showing the evolution of her character into a warm and helpful young woman. "Remember all I have taught you," the priest who has long been Matilda's guardian admonishes her, "about . . . the evils of joy and pleasure." Not "ungodly joy" or "sinful pleasure," but joy and pleasure in themselves. Father Leufredus is so transparently holier-than-thou that he's less an actual character than a straw man Cushman sets up just for the purpose of knocking him down. In reality, a medieval priest as devout at Leufredus is supposed to be would never have taken an orphan girl as his ward, no matter how clever he thought her; women were considered to be inherently carnal creatures, tempters of men, who were thought to be more naturally and properly preoccupied with spiritual matters. Even if he did, it's unlikely he would have raised her to be otiose and entitled; even those consecrated and cloistered in holy orders had to perform manual labor, as an exercise in obedience and humility. Matilda herself is a poor representative of the fruits of spiritual devotion; she spends her days thinking about martyred saints but her religion doesn't do a single thing to make her wiser, kinder, or more Christlike.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By CYNTHIA ABEL on September 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As an adult that eagerly anticipates each Cushman novel and devours each with delight, "Matilda Bone" should please fans of "Catherine, Called Birdy" and the "Midwife's Apprentice" Cushman excels in female protagonists secure in one world that circumstances thrust into another where they have to learn new skills and new ways of thinking in order to successfully cope and "Matilda" is no exception. Fourteen-year-old Matilda, secure on a medieval English manor,where the manor priest has raised her making her fluent in Latin, writing and religion is suddenly dropped by her respected priest on the doorstep of Peg the Bonesetter, where all her knowledge, piety, and mind-set is of no use in Peg's real world. Matilda prays to her well-known saints to save her, but the saints have no pity and no time for her. How Matilda slowly learns her way around real world London and that book knowledge is no replacement for experience, Cushman presents in her usual realism with a sense of humor style. Cushman is so comfortable with the world of medieval England that the details of life should delight readers rather than putting them off. Some fans of the Harry Potter series might enjoy this book while awaiting for the next book in the series. I thought the book over too soon and wish for the further adventures of Matilda.
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