Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village

Laura Amy Schlitz, Author, Robert Byrd, Illustrator , illus. by Robert Byrd. Candlewick $19.99 (85p) ISBN 978-0-7636-1578-9

Schlitz (The Hero Schliemann ) wrote these 22 brief monologues to be performed by students at the school where she is a librarian; here, bolstered by lively asides and unobtrusive notes, and illuminated by Byrd's (Leonard, Beautiful Dreamer) stunningly atmospheric watercolors, they bring to life a prototypical English village in 1255. Adopting both prose and verse, the speakers, all young, range from the half-wit to the lord's daughter, who explains her privileged status as the will of God. The doctor's son shows off his skills (“Ordinary sores/ Will heal with comfrey, or the white of an egg,/ An eel skin takes the cramping from a leg”); a runaway villein (whose life belongs to the lord of his manor) hopes for freedom after a year and a day in the village, if only he can calculate the passage of time; an eel-catcher describes her rough infancy: her “starving poor [father] took me up to drown in a bucket of water.” (He relents at the sight of her “wee fingers” grasping at the sides of the bucket.) Byrd, basing his work on a 13th-century German manuscript, supplies the first page of each speaker's text with a tone-on-tone patterned border overset with a square miniature. Larger watercolors, some with more intricate borders, accompany explanatory text for added verve. The artist does not channel a medieval style; rather, he mutes his palette and angles some lines to hint at the period, but his use of cross-hatching and his mostly realistic renderings specifically welcome a contemporary readership. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 08/27/2007
Release date: 07/01/2007
Genre: Children's
Compact Disc - 2 pages - 978-1-4361-1963-4
Prebound-Glued - 85 pages - 978-0-606-06658-7
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4561-0551-8
Prebound-Sewn - 95 pages - 978-0-606-23180-0
Paperback - 85 pages - 978-0-7636-4332-4
Paperback - 95 pages - 978-0-7636-5094-0
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