Book Review · Newbery Award

Book Review: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village  |  Laura Amy Schlitz

Awards: Newbery MedalGood_Masters_Sweet_Ladies

The year is 1255 and the setting is a small village in medieval England. Each new page introduces the reader to a different member of the village.  Otho the Miller’s son, Piers the Glassblowers apprentice, Jack the half-wit, Nellie the sniggler, Hugo the Lord’s nephew; listen as history comes alive through the voice of each child as they tell their story and the part their life played in history.

Pages : 96

Suggested Age Group: 7 and up

Rating: PG

Physical Abuse. Mention of infanticide (by drowning). Bullying. Parental Death. Religious Persecution.

My Thoughts:

I first came across Good Masters, Sweet Ladies at my local library in the audio section. The village truly comes alive when you listen to each story read aloud. The author explains that the book was originally written as a play and thus I highly recommend finding an audio recording of this book, if you can. The book as a whole is quite short, with nineteen monologues and two separate dialogues. Ms. Schlitz intersperses background for many of the subjects mentioned in the stories, including the crusades, falconry, and the hardships of peasant life. There are twenty-three characters in all, and each one is rich, round, and real. The beauty of this book and its composition is, though remarkably short, you still come away with a full picture of the character’s lives. This is no easy task and Ms. Schlitz accomplishes this beautifully.

The great appeal of this book is the foreign world and words mixed with the familiarity of human struggle. I don’t have to understand everything about history to receive the beauty of each person’s experience and story. Even if you don’t know what a sniggler is (someone who catches eels—ugh), Nelly the sniggler is a strong clever girl with a bit of luck that follows her everywhere. I could go on, but the book has already been written and I can only suggest you read it. Read it out loud. Let the strange melody of Medieval England remind you where we came from. Find your favorite character, be it Wil or Maude, Taggot or Simon, Isobel or Barbary.

-rj

ps. my favorite characters were Otho and Drogo.

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