The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman is set in medieval England, when life was hard for most. I stayed up reading this book past midnight the first day and got up early the next morning to finish it! There are secrets mysteriously revealed, a cat that learns to read, twin calves, as well as hope and anticipation.
The author brings the characters in this village to life after introducing us to the main character, a young girl sleeping in a pile of manure.
Tonight she settled for the warm rotting of a dung heap, where she dreamed of nothing, for she hoped for nothing and expected nothing.
Some, when repeatedly put down seek to cut others down lower than themselves. Others learn from their wounds to respond more kindly than those who have never known pain. Alyce (aka Brat, aka Dung Beetle, aka Beetle, aka…well, you get the idea) shines in spite of her dark circumstances. I found her extremely likable, but she has been minimized so often she cannot see her own potential.
Will being around new life afford Alyce with a chance at new life? What does it take to nurture a bright child with little self-esteem? What human needs are there beyond food and clothing and shelter? Great questions. Read Karen’s book for some thoughts about these questions and others.
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