Includes bibliographical references (page 82-85).;Hugo, the Lord's nephew -- Taggot, the blacksmith's daughter -- Will, the plowboy -- Alice, the shepherdess -- Thomas, the doctor's son -- Constance, the pilgrim -- Mogg, the villein's daughter -- Otho, the miller's son -- Jack, the half-wit -- Simon, the knight's son -- Edgar, the falconer's son -- Isobel, the Lord's daughter -- Barbary, the mud slinger -- Jacob Ben Salomon, the moneylender's son, and Petronella, the merchant's daughter -- Lowdy, the varlet's child -- Pask, the runaway -- Piers, the glassblower's apprentice -- Mariot and Maud, the glassblower's daughters -- Nelly, the sniggler -- Drogo, the tanner's apprentice -- Giles, the beggar. A collection of short one-person plays featuring characters, between ten and fifteen years old, who live in or near a thirteenth-century English manor.
From the Publisher
Step back to an English village in 1255, where life plays out in dramatic vignettes illuminating twenty-two unforgettable characters. Winner of the Newbery Medal.
Maidens, monks, and millers' sons -- in these pages, readers will meet them all. There's Hugo, the lord's nephew, forced to prove his manhood by hunting a wild boar; sharp-tongued Nelly, who supports her family by selling live eels; and the peasant's daughter, Mogg, who gets a clever lesson in how to save a cow from a greedy landlord. There's also mud-slinging Barbary (and her noble victim); Jack, the compassionate half-wit; Alice, the singing shepherdess; and many more. With a deep appreciation for the period and a grand affection for both characters and audience, Laura Amy Schlitz creates twenty-two riveting portraits and linguistic gems equally suited to silent reading or performance. Illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings by Robert Byrd -- inspired by the Munich-Nuremberg manuscript, an illuminated poem from thirteenth-century Germany -- this witty, historically accurate, and utterly human collection forms an exquisite bridge to the people and places of medieval England.
July 24, 2007
x, 85 pages : color illustrations, color map, music ; 27 cm
Byrd, Robert, illustrator.
School Library Journal:
ATOS Book Level:
AR Interest Level:
Reading Counts Level:
Reading Counts Points:
Fountas & Pinnell:
Reviews & Awards
- ALA Notable Children's Books, 2008
- Book Links, 01/01/10
- Book Links starred, 01/01/08
- Booklist starred, 08/01/07
- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred, 09/01/07
- Horn Book Magazine starred, 04/01/08
- Kirkus Reviews starred, 07/15/07
- Newbery Medal, 2008
- School Library Journal starred, 08/01/07
- Wilson's Children, 10/01/10
- Wilson's Junior High School, 01/09/10
Booklist starred (August 2007 (Vol. 103, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. The author of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama (2006), Schlitz turns to a completely different kind of storytelling here. Using a series of interconnected monologues and dialogues featuring young people living in and around an English manor in 1255, she offers first-person character sketches that build upon each other to create a finer understanding of medieval life. The book was inspired by the necessity of creating a play suitable for a classroom where “no one wanted a small part.” Each of the 23 characters (between 10 and 15 years old) has a distinct personality and a societal role revealed not by recitation of facts but by revelation of memories, intentions, and attitudes. Sometimes in prose and more often in one of several verse forms, the writing varies nicely from one entry to the next. Historical notes appear in the vertical margins, and some double-page spreads carry short essays on topics related to individual narratives, such as falconry, the Crusades, and Jews in medieval society. Although often the characters’ specific concerns are very much of their time, their outlooks and emotional states will be familiar to young people today. Reminiscent of medieval art, Byrd’s lively ink drawings, tinted with watercolors, are a handsome addition to this well-designed book. This unusually fine collection of related monologues and dialogues promises to be a rewarding choice for performance or for reading aloud in the classroom.
Read all 6 full-text reviews …
Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2007)
Schlitz gives teachers a refreshing option for enhancing the study of the European Middle Ages: here are seventeen monologues and two dialogues that collectively create a portrait of life on an English manor in 1255. A plowboy, a knight's son, and a sniggler (eel-catcher), among other boys and girls ages ten to fifteen, say their pieces. Rhythm and style vary to suit each role, from breathless, thrusting phrases as a knight's son describes a boar hunt to the lighthearted rhyming of a shamelessly dishonest miller boy. Schlitz conveys information about class, attitudes, and social practices through the monologues, footnote-like sidebars, and six spreads titled "A Little Background" that offer fuller explanations of farming practices, the Crusades, falconry, and more. Schlitz acknowledges some of the nastier aspects of this oft-romanticized period (such as its persecution of Jews), but in gentle, moderate language. Byrd's pristine, elegant pen-and-ink illustrations in opulent colors make the book almost too visually appealing, belying the realistically dirty, stinky conditions described in the text.
Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2007)
Schlitz takes the breath away with unabashed excellence in every direction. This wonderfully designed and produced volume contains 17 monologues for readers ten to 15, each in the voice of a character from an English town in 1255. Some are in verse; some in prose; all are interconnected. The language is rich, sinewy, romantic and plainspoken. Readers will immediately cotton to Taggot, the blacksmith's daughter, who is big and strong and plain, and is undone by the sprig of hawthorn a lord's nephew leaves on her anvil. Isobel the lord's daughter doesn't understand why the peasants throw mud at her silks, but readers will: Barbary, exhausted from caring for the baby twins with her stepmother who is pregnant again, flings the muck in frustration. Two sisters speak in tandem, as do a Jew and a Christian, who marvel in parallel at their joy in skipping stones on water. Double-page spreads called "A little background" offer lively information about falconry, The Crusades, pilgrimages and the like. Byrd's watercolor-and-ink pictures add lovely texture and evoke medieval illustration without aping it. Brilliant in every way. (foreword, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-15)
Library Media Connection (November/December 2007)
Readers are introduced to the entire social strata of an English medieval town by 22 villagers from all walks of life, from the lord's nephew and daughter, apprentices, trades people, and artisans, to the lowliest beggar. Most of these characters are children or young people. Characters describe themselves through first-person monologues that are written to be read or recited by students. Annotations and notes are included on page margins to explain factual information and old English terminology, a feature that gives the book a scholarly feel, but which are very age-appropriate. Monologues are followed by straightforward informational text, "A Little Background," written in a narrative style. Color illustrations in the style of medieval tapestries or panels illuminate the text. Margin borders are each a different pattern reminiscent of the age. Depending on the grade level of students using this title, it will make a valuable supplement to history classes, English literature studies including Chaucer, and as an unusual variation on reader's theatre. Art classes can also use the illustrations to supplement any study of medieval art. Recommended. Shelley Glantz, Reviews Editor, Library Media Connection
Publishers Weekly (August 27, 2007)
Schlitz (The Hero Schliemann) wrote these 22 brief monologues to be performed by students at the school where she is a librarian; here, bolstered by lively asides and unobtrusive notes, and illuminated by Byrd's (Leonard, Beautiful Dreamer) stunningly atmospheric watercolors, they bring to life a prototypical English village in 1255. Adopting both prose and verse, the speakers, all young, range from the half-wit to the lord's daughter, who explains her privileged status as the will of God. The doctor's son shows off his skills ("Ordinary sores/ Will heal with comfrey, or the white of an egg,/ An eel skin takes the cramping from a leg"); a runaway villein (whose life belongs to the lord of his manor) hopes for freedom after a year and a day in the village, if only he can calculate the passage of time; an eel-catcher describes her rough infancy: her "starving poor [father] took me up to drown in a bucket of water." (He relents at the sight of her "wee fingers" grasping at the sides of the bucket.) Byrd, basing his work on a 13th-century German manuscript, supplies the first page of each speaker's text with a tone-on-tone patterned border overset with a square miniature. Larger watercolors, some with more intricate borders, accompany explanatory text for added verve. The artist does not channel a medieval style; rather, he mutes his palette and angles some lines to hint at the period, but his use of cross-hatching and his mostly realistic renderings specifically welcome a contemporary readership. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal (August 1, 2007)
Gr 4-8-Schlitz helps students step directly into the shoes-and lives-of medieval children in this outstanding collection of interrelated monologues. Designed for performance and excellent for use in interdisciplinary history classrooms, the book offers students an incredibly approachable format for learning about the Middle Ages that makes the period both realistic and relevant. The text, varying from dramatic to poetic, depending on the point of view, is accompanied by historical notes that shed light on societal roles, religion, and town life. Byrd's illustrations evoke the era and give dramatists ideas for appropriate costuming and props. Browsers interested in medieval life will gravitate toward this title, while history buffs will be thrilled by the chance to make history come alive through their own voices.-Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Back to Top