The book Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman takes place in
medieval England in 1290. Birdy is the 14 year old daughter of an
English country knight who is very inventive and humorous. The book
is written in journal form because Birdy's brother, who is a monk, taught
her to read and write and he suggested to her that writing the account
of her days will help her grow "less childish and more learned."
Each different passage tells of the adventures of her days and how her
parents are trying to make her act like a lady so her father can marry
her off. Birdy hates to act like a lady and doesn't want to get married.
This journal describes her adventures throughout a year of her daily life
and her efforts to get rid of any male suitor that her father wants her
"Everything I know I've
learned from books," says Karen. This is very obvious in her writing
style. Karen Cushman is the author of several historical novels for
young adults including the Newberry honor winner, Catherine Called Birdy.
She has also written, The Midwife's Apprentice, the 1996
Newberry award winner, and The Ballad of Lucy Whipple. All
of Karen's books involve a great deal of historical research. She
uses primary sources such as letters, journals, and personal papers.
She also reads books about food, attitudes, people and places of the past.
She also read other historical young adult books by Rosemary Sutcliffe
and Patricia MacLachlan to help her gain a better understanding of historical
fiction.Her books are appealing to young people because they are easy to
relate to for young adults, particularly females. All of her books
contain a female protagonist which goes through some sort of ordeal such
as finding identity, responsibilities, limitations, and family. Karen
Cushman's books are a great source for the classroom because they are so
factual. For example, the feast days in Catherine Called
Birdy are authentic. Karen puts much time into her books for
young adults, making them wonderful reading for teachers and students alike.
Called Birdy, which takes place in medieval times, castles are the
types of homes that are commonplace. As a historical connection,
have the students access Journey Through The
Middle Ages at http://tqjunior.advanced.org/4051/.
Students will begin this interactive adventure by clicking continue
and that they have been to the castle before. Click for informativie
topics and click on inside
and outside the castle.
Students will use the information on castles to design a blueprint of their
very own castle.
Students can also access http://www.castlesontheweb.com/
to look at photos of various castles to help them visually design what
they want their blueprint to look like.
Approximate time for the activity is 35-40 minutes.
Have the students share their blueprints with the class.
books by Karen Cushman:
Ballad of Lucy Whipple. Houghton Mufflin Co., 1996
Midwife's Apprentice. Bantam Books, 1996
books about the Middle Ages:
Thomas E. The Civilizations of the Middle Ages: A Completely Revised
& Expanded Edition of Medieval History, the Life & Death of a Civilization.
Harperperennial Library, 1994
Regina. Those Terrible Middle Ages! Debunking the Myths. Ignatius
Arthur, James J. Walsh. Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic,
and Jewish Traditions. Hackett Publishing Company, 1983
Joseph & Frances. Life in a Medieval City, Life in a Medieval Village
& Life in a Medieval Castle. Bantam Books, 1993
books in diary form:
Fieldings, Bridget Jones' Diary: A Novel. Penguin USA, 1999
Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Bantam Books, 1993
Website created by: Carrie
Rauer, Kristin Knode, Kara Clark, Terry Davis