by Karen Cushman
The Midwife's Apprentice won the Newbery Medal in 1996 as "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." Only 122 pages, it packs in a lot of historical detail, an engaging heroine, and a story of perseverance.
Brat is an orphan girl found on a dung heap by Jane, a medieval village midwife in England, who takes her on as a helper and calls her Beetle.
Beetle has lots of experiences that illustrate typical life in the 1300s, as well as increasing her self-confidence and her determination of what her "place in this world" should be. Eventually she names herself Alyce, and even learns to read.
Despite its short length, the reading level (6.0) and some of the subject matter (women and animals giving birth) make this book more appropriate for middle school and up. A number of other Newbery Medalists are set in this era and could be used in a history unit on the Middle Ages.
The copy of the book I got at the Hood County Library had the cover pictured above. This would be the Alyce cover. The one just below, from my university library, would be the Beetle cover.
© Amanda Pape - 2015