Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Looking to escape the stresses of everyday life in 2013?  Well look no further than Laura Amy Schlitz's Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village (Candlewick Press, 2007)This collection of 22 monologues explores the lives of children in an English village in 1255.  Just imagine...no Twitter, no texting, just life in the village.  Readers learn about children who have to work at a young age to help support their families, but through vivid monologues.  Intertwined between the monologues are footnotes and full pages that describe aspects of a particular monologue with a more informative tone.  For instance, in Edgar the Falconer’s Son’s monologue, there is a footnote to explain the “seeling” of a birds eyelids:  “In the early stages of taming a bird, the bird’s eyelids were “seeled” – sewn shut.  This was said to calm the bird (it wouldn’t calm me)” (39).   This provides an answer to a question many young readers may have, but in a casual and personal way. 

The book won the 2008 Newbery Medal, and was written by Schlitz (a school librarian!) for a group of her students to perform.  And what a fun idea...this book can be used in the classroom to learn about history while tapping into the creative side of students.  A search of "Good Masters, Sweet Ladies" on YouTube yields endless videos of students reciting monologues. 

The book is intended for readers 10 years old and up, and I'd go pretty far up, as I enjoyed reading this immensely!  History lovers will enjoy this, as well as reluctant nonfiction readers, as the story will draw them in.  This book may also be a good choice for a reader who likes to have easy stopping points while reading, as each monologue only spans a few pages at the most.  The book does not seem long and drawn out, and is easy to split up into manageable reading bits. 

Check out a more eloquently written review of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, by John Schwartz of the  New York Times review here.

For readers who may have already read (and loved!) this titles but are still interested in reading more about the Middle Ages, the following titles may be of interest:

The Horrible, Miserable Middle Ages by Kathy Allen, Capstone Press, 2010, 8 and up 

This book is a good choice for readers who don't get squeamish easily, as just browsing the table of contents could cause queasiness!  Chapter titles that may entice gross-fact finders include "Rotting Teeth," "No Flushing," and "Barber-Surgeons," just to name a few.  "Foul Facts" are scattered throughout the short book.  For example:  "Diners at nobles' feasts used their best manners.  They remembered not to fart of pick flea bites at the table" (12).  GROSS! 

Till Year's Good End: A Calendar of Medieval Labors by W. Nikola-Lisa, Atheneum Books for Yount Readers, 2009, 6 and up 

Less disgusting than the previous suggestion, this book describes in more detail the daily work load of peasants and villagers in Medieval times.  Each month has it's own page, and readers learn more about tasks of the time, maybe making their own chores seem menial! 

One last thing...here is a website for kids and teachers with links to a lot of other sites with information about all aspects of life in Medieval times.  This site could be used a great starting point for kids hoping to learn more about this time period, as well as for teachers or librarians looking for resources when developing lessons or programs. 


  1. I love this book, reminds me of the Canterbury Tales. My favorite monologue is Barbary the mud slinger.

    Unfortunately my library does not have The Horrible, Miserable Middle Ages but reading the description reminds me some books from the You Wouldn't Want to... series. Two titles that would work for Middle Ages are ( both by Fiona MacDonald:

    You Wouldn't Want to be a Medieval Knight: Armor You Rather Not Wear (New York : Franklin Watts, 2004.)-Provides information on the training, traditions, and life of knights during the Middle Ages for a young boy who thinks that that is what he wants to be.

    You Wouldn't Want to be in a Medieval Dungeon (New York : Franklin Watts, c2003. )-Describes what life was like in medieval dungeons during the late fifteenth century, as seen through the eyes of the jailer.

    Good Review!

  2. You're doing a wonderful job with your blog postings so far. Keep it up!

  3. Very nicely done. I love the story about the Girl Scouts!