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The Midwife's Apprentice

The Midwife's Apprentice
Author: Karen Cushman
ISBN 13: 9780064406307
ISBN 10: 6440630
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 1996-08-16
Format: Paperback
Pages: 128
List Price: $5.99

'Like Cushman's 1995 Newbery Honor Book, Catherine, Called Birdy, this novel is about a strong young woman in medieval England who finds her own way home. This is a world, like Chaucer's, that's . . . dangerous, primitive and raucous. From the first page you're caught by the spirit of the homeless, nameless waif, somewhere around 12 years old. She gets the village midwife to take her in, befriends a cat, names herself Alyce, and learns something about delivering babies. When she fails, she runs away, but she picks herself up again and returns to work and independence.' —ALA Booklist (starred review). '. . .A fascinating view of a far distant time.' — The Horn Book (starred review)

Publishers Weekly

Having focused on a well-born young heroine in her Newbery Honor debut novel, Catherine, Called Birdy, Cushman returns to a similar medieval English setting, this time to imagine how the other half lived. The strengths of this new, relatively brief novel match those of its predecessor: Cushman has an almost unrivaled ability to build atmosphere, and her evocation of a medieval village, if not scholarly in its authenticity, is supremely colorful and pungent. The protagonist here first appears asleep in a heap of dung; the ``rotting and moiling'' of the refuse give forth heat enough to compensate for the stench. Homeless and nameless, she can remember no time when she did not wander from village to village. She is rescued from the dung heap by a sharp-tongued local midwife, who feeds her in exchange for work. Gradually the girl forges an identity for herself and learns some timeless truths. Some of the characterizations lack consistency (particularly that of the midwife), the plot depends on a few too many conveniences and the development of the themes seems hurried-but no matter. The force of the ambience produces more than enough momentum to propel the reader from start to finish in a single happy sitting. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)