Matilda Bone

Karen Cushman, Author Clarion Books $15 (167p) ISBN 978-0-395-88156-9
Fans of Cushman's previous medieval novels (Catherine, Called Birdy; The Midwife's Apprentice) may be disappointed with this historical adventure set in ""Blood and Bone Alley"" in the town of Chipping Bagthorpe. Unlike Catherine and Brat, heroines whose combination of rebelliousness and resourcefulness made them instantly likeable, 13-year-old Matilda is less winning than her supporting cast. The daughter of a wealthy lord's clerk and a mother who fled soon after her birth, Matilda finds herself orphaned when her father dies. As the novel opens, her self-appointed guardian, Father Leufredus, has just dropped her off at the meager lodgings of Red Peg the Bonesetter to learn Peg's trade. Fresh from the intolerant Father's tutelage, Matilda, in her zealous piety, snubs Peg and inadvertently thwarts the woman's work: more than once, while lost in prayer, the girl ruins a salve or a simple meal of porridge. Thus readers don't get the same insider's view of the bonesetter's apprenticeship that they saw of midwifery through Brat's eyes. The promise of a potential villain, Master Theobold, ""the leading physick"" who prizes money over healing, is never realized; the development of Matilda's friendship with another girl takes place mostly offstage; and, strangely, there are two denouements, in which Matilda makes the same realization that she has been wrong about Peg (one involving an ailing stranger whom she is treating, the other the apothecary's apprentice). Fiery Peg, her witty husband and her circle of friends will be the characters readers remember. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/16/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
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Hardcover - 169 pages - 978-0-7862-3212-3
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Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-8072-6176-7
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