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Showing 1-10 of 69 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 414 reviews
on May 5, 2014
Few books that take place in the middle ages give you a such a generous picture of every day life. The constant proximity of animals, the crowdedness before the single bedroom made its debut, the odd mix of fun and celebration in the great hall with the fasting and penance that religious life brought, the clear view of marriage as anything but an affair of the heart and the ordeal that child-bearing meant for even those who survived -- all of that is clearly drawn.

Less plausible for me was the casual way Birdy took the bruises and beatings that were administered almost as matter of course by her father and the lack of real soul-searching as Birdy herself harmed others (either truly, as when she set fire to a privy that someone was in or when she thought she had harmed her cousin George and her dearest friend with a charm to destroy their love for one another.) Perhaps the times made that much of a difference (this is a point that is hard to prove or disprove since we have little record of the hearts and minds of these girls and women) but I cannot think of any moderns who would not think a little more deeply about these things. Although she is drawn here as "plucky," Birdy's attitudes are often hard to credit. Lastly, although Birdy is often described as treating illness there is no clue as to how she may have learned those skills. That would have been interesting as it's hard to imagine her listening to a teacher rather than just being sure she already knew the best thing all the time.
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on September 28, 2015
This is my favourite novel from my childhood. I read it so much I had to buy another copy because the first fell apart. I love Catherine. She fights to be herself in a place where she is expected to be a certain way. She learns to work around the limitations she's been given. She never stops trying. And she lands herself in some hilarious situations along the way. She showed me what it was to be independent at an age where I wasn't sure what that meant. This book also inspired my love for medieval England and British history. Highly recommend, especially to anyone with a young daughter.
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on April 9, 2012
I enjoyed the book very much. The thing that makes me wary of historical fiction is the trap of planting a modern-thinking person into a historical period and go from there - I find this false and jarring - and this novel definitely avoided it. I found Catherine convincing and endearing. Having only general education in history, I can't offer any reliable opinion on historical accuracy, but I didn't detect anything obviously sticking out. The frame of the story is a journal a 14 year old Catherine writes about her life. I liked the way Catherine developed and grew up, and the way the supporting characters turned out, seen through the merciless black-and-white of teen's eyes. I recommend it!
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on December 9, 2014
Very funny and very descriptive of life in medieval England such as dung along with herbalist in some of the medicinal preparations, the out house, I loved Buddy she takes on life with such energy and the Saints and their feasts days are quite imaginative and some gross. Buddy can both read and write very unusual for her day also in her way of getting rid of the sisters her father (the beast) has tried to Mary her of too at the age of fourteen. It's not all fun and mischief there are is the fear of losing her mother in childbirth and being the one to doctor the wounds and ills not only of the household but the village as well. If you love stories set in medieval England you'll love this book.
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on April 29, 2015
Whoever came up with the idea of Kate Maberly performing this was a genius. Kate's clear voice, sometimes sweet, sometimes impish, is simply perfect for this young heroine. Her British English is an added plus to bring a touch of reality to the fictional character. Kate and crew, well done! well done!

In addition to enjoying this clever audio book, American kids especially might have fun trying to pick up a little of Kate's crystal clear accent (for instance, the word "adventure" comes out something like "ad-vench-a" with a strong "ch" like in "church" or "itch", and with no "r" sound at all). It might surprise some kids to know that Kate can speak a typically American dialect flawlessly.

This audio version, which won a well-deserved Audie award, needs to stay in a hard-format print for a long long time to come.
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on July 20, 2016
My 10 year old daughter read this. It was, I think, her most challenging read yet. There is a lot to understand both in terms of vocabulary and in terms of how people lived in medieval times. Among other things I had to explain that people were engaged and married (and bore children) at a very young age and that it was acceptable for a parent to hit their child often. A bit of an eye-opener for her, but she's a mature kid and asks when she has questions, and it was OK for us. She loved the book, and gained valuable insight into the life of a girl living in another time and place.
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on May 14, 2014
I love children's books, especially those that can be read by anyone from pre-teen through adult, and read more than once with increasing sophistication over the years. To give you a baseline, my favorites are probably "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," "The Once and Future King," and almost anything by Rosemary Sutcliff. And yes, I re-read books, and some, though not all, hold up. "Birdy" will.

"Catherine, called Birdy" introduces us to the lives of burgher-class, not royal, English women in the Middle ages. It brings the ugly, grimy, day-to-day reality of the period to life. The setting provides vivid touchstones to enrich anyone's reading of history or novels about the period. Birdy is a stubborn, rebellious delight. The book takes the form of Birdy's notes for Saints' Days--Birdy, taught by one brother, a monk, would rather write than sew, so this is her sometime tradeoff. Over the next few years I'll try to read everything by Karen Cushman.
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on July 15, 2016
Catherine, Called Birdy is one of my favorite books for young adult girls. The book is set in the early middle ages, and Birdy's father is trying to find a suitor for her, but Birdy does not want to marry. She undermines every attempt her father makes until he entertains the idea of choosing one who is old enough to be her father. Birdy is a strong young lady who eventually has to accept her father's plans, but she does get a better deal than she had originally hoped for. It is hilarious.
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on April 24, 2012
Let me say that I read this book in one sitting, I enjoyed it that much. Catherine, the 14-year-old daughter of a Knight and Lady, has an arranged marriage in her future: that's how things were done. We the reader are privy to Catherine's journal, which is an absolute delight to read because it shows us how people behaved at the time, what they believed, what they ate, wore, how they cleaned themselves and their homes, and so on. Religion in the form of the Catholic Church is ever-present in the life of the people.

Catherine has some of the sensibilities of a modern young woman: though not so much that the story was unbelievable. As one reviewer on Amazon pointed out, she uses precious paper and ink in a very modern way, to write down her thoughts and curses ("Corpus bones, what a torture."). It seems highly, highly unlikely for a young woman of that time to do something like this, and most likely even if she had a journal, her mother would have supervised what was written in it, or checked up on it.

On the other hand, if the author hadn't presented Catherine this way, she (the character) wouldn't be very interesting. And so I'm willing to suspend belief for a while to enjoy this story about a young woman trying in her own way to assert her identity, to rebel against the narrow role that society has dictated for her. The ending is realistic and therefore satisfying. This is a very good book that is very deserving of its Newbury Honor Medal.
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on November 29, 2013
This is one of the very best books on this topic for young people available and its also just a great read. Its about a young girl in the middle ages, a very tough time to write about without falling into the "knights of yore" syndrome and Ms. Cushman does not fall into that trap. I have read it before and bought it because I wanted it on my Kindle. Beware the kindle version!!! It had numerous misspellings, typos and just weird characters scattered throughout. Its as if there were some sort of data corruption. Don't buy this one, go and look for a nice clean copy or make sure that they have cleaned this up. I was very disappointed.
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