Title: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From A Medieval Village
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrator: Robert Byrd
Genre: Juvenile Drama
Date Finished: 17 March 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars
Newbery Medal Winner 2008
In the forward to this wonderful collection of one-person plays, Laura Amy Schlitz said that these plays were written for the students at park School, where she works as a librarian. "They were studying the Middle Ages, and they were going at it hammer and tongs. They were experimenting with catapults and building miniature castles, baking bread and tending herbs, composing music and illuminating manuscripts. I wanted them to have something to perform."
Something to perform is exactly what she gave them! These monologues are absolutely fascinating and delightful.
One of my favorites was Thomas, the Doctor's Son.
"After the prayer, let the patient rest,
And tell his family, 'I will do my best
To fight this sickness, but I fear his fate-
It may be that you called me in too late'
Then shake your head, look serious and wise-
This sort of talk protects you if he dies.
If he recovers, it was all your skill
That brought him back to life. And that's better still."
Another was Barbary, the Mud Slinger.
"It made me think
how all women are the same-
silk or sackcloth, all the same.
There's always babies to be born
and suckled and wiped,
and worried over.
Isobel, the lord's daughter,
will have to be married,
and squat in the straw,
and scream with the pain
and pray for her life
same as me.
And thinking of that,
I added one more prayer-
sweet Jesus, come Christmas,
don't let it be twins."
I also really enjoyed Mogg, the villein's daughter, Piers, the glassblower's apprentice and Mariot and Maud, the glassblower's daughters.
This little volume is storytelling at its best. Not only do you get a wonderful, captivating story (or 22 of them in this case,) but you are also learning about the life of children in the Middle Ages. Through these monologues we learn about farming, pilgrimages, marriage, religion, freedom, hygiene and the crusades of the Middle Ages. And Schlitz definitely did not pretty-up the Middle Ages for her young audience. There are fleas, dung, polluted rivers and religious intolerance.
I can only imagine how fun it must be for school children to perform these little plays.
I can not forget to mention the wonderful illustrations by Robert Byrd. They are beautiful and fit the piece perfectly.
Brief interview with Laura Amy Schlitz on the Today Show