Reviewed by Liza Perrat
I thoroughly enjoyed The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman, and was equally enthralled by Catherine Called Birdy, another of her historical fiction novels.
Set in 1290, Catherine Called Birdy is written for the age range 9 and up. The story is told through 14-year old Catherine’s quirky diary entries. The daughter of a minor nobleman, Catherine would prefer to play outdoors with the wild peasants, rather than pursuing the usual occupations of a noble girl, such as embroidering and sewing. She yearns for her independence, and truly wishes she’d been born a boy.
But Catherine is approaching the age of marriage, and her hateful father invites one suitor after another, all of whom the girl finds repulsive. She wants none of this marriage lark, and makes a game of turning away each potential husband. That is, until she meets her match – the ugliest of all the men, who seems determined to make Catherine his wife. She plans and schemes, trying to find a way out of her predicament, learning and growing along the way.
Written in diary form, I think the reader gains a more personal understanding of Catherine’s life, and although hers is starkly different from that of a modern child, Catherine’s responses and actions are strikingly familiar.
A wonderful experience for a young person of our electronic era to meet a child from a long-gone age, I would highly recommend this moving and entertaining tale, but not only for children. Adults too, could not fail to find Catherine Called Birdy amusing and thought-provoking.