Created by Laura Abbott

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Kushman

Cushman, Karen. Catherine, Called Birdy. HarperCollins Publishers, 1995. 224 pages. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-06-440584-3.

Annotation: In the year 1290, fourteen-year-old Catherine is the only daughter of a country knight growing up in a medieval English manor. Her father is determined to see her married and she will do everything she can to avoid her unwanted suitors.

Summary: This book, written in diary format during the year 1290, records the events of fourteen-year-old Catherine, the only daughter of a minor country knight. Life on the English medieval manor is limiting for a young woman; there is cooking, cleaning, sewing, and treating illnesses. Her father is determined to marry Catherine off to the richest suitor he can find. Catherine, on the other hand, is resolved to thwart any such attempts. She spends her time worrying about her ill mother, tending to her birds, avoiding chores, learning the curse words of the day, and wishing for adventure. There is a happy resolution when she ends up marrying the sensitive son of an ugly shaggy bearded man to whom she was engaged before his untimely death.

Evaluation: This book is a witty historical treat; through Catherine’s journal entries readers are able to get an accurate glance at what life was like for young women during the Middle Ages. The diary describes such information as dress, foods, customs, health, manners, religious beliefs, medical practices, and sanitary habits. Catherine’s character is honest, believable, strong-willed, and completely engaging. Readers will root for her success in avoiding unwelcome suitors. Recommended for ages 12 to 17.

Genre / Subject: Fiction, Historical, Medieval Life, Middle Ages, England, Diaries, Identity, Family, Friendship, Aspirations

Awards: 1994 Golden Kite Award, 1995 Newbery Medal Award Winner, 1996 American Booksellers Book of the Year Honor Award, 1995 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1995 ALA Notable Children’s Book, 1995 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers