Hugo, the lord’s nephew, proves his manhood by hunting a wild boar. Sharp-tongued Nelly supports her family by selling live eels. Peasant Mogg gets a clever lesson in how to save a cow from a greedy landlord. Barbary slings mud on noble Jack. Alice is the singing shepherdess. And many more . . . .
Awards: Newbery Medal (2008), School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editors' Choice
My thoughts: I didn't know what to expect from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village since it is a children's book. I knew from the cover art that it wasn't necessarily a sweet little small child's fairy tale type of book, but just what was it?
I am completely taken with the beauty of this publication, the verbal artistry of the author, Laura Amy Schlitz, and the way the various "voices" from the village speak about themselves, their lives, and the times in which they live. The side notes help clarify terms or words so the reader can get a fuller comprehension of what they are talking about in each voicing.
Oh! I had such fun reading each of these character's stories told in the first person as monologues or two-part stories. This was simply something I wish I had had the opportunity to do when my children were growing up. (Oh, where in the world was this book?) And then after some of the villagers told their tale, there would be a page or two of easy-to-understand history of that particular part of Medieval life. For example: Across a stream a Jew and a Christian merchant's daughter gaze at each other. Their emotions emanating from fear and hatred of Christians toward Jews at the time were overcome by a few moments of light, youthful playfulness - stone skipping over the water. Following this was the history of Jewish persecution during the period. A touching scene and a touching part of history.
Another bit of educational fun was the glimpse into the son of the Knight. His current plight and station in life after his father, the Knight, had used all his money and lands to outfit himself to participate in the Crusades. Following this was an interesting and realistic history of the Crusades.
I love the illustrations of Robert Byrd and they seem to really fit the Medieval times harking back to old illustrations and art that have survived the centuries. The two-page spread at the beginning shows the entire village with the stream meandering through it. Of note is every character in Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is featured (name is by their figure). The cover is filled with colorful villagers mingling about.
It is easy to see why the book has been awarded the the Gold John Newbery Medal. Entertainment, education, and pure enjoyment pervade the book from beginning to end.
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DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by Candlewick Press to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own, alone. I was not compensated for this review.