cover image Till Year's Good End: A Calendar of Medieval Labors

Till Year's Good End: A Calendar of Medieval Labors

W. Nikola-Lisa. Atheneum Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80020-7

Handsome artwork rendered in pen-and-ink and watercolor lend solidity and grace to this almanac of the medieval agricultural year from a peasant's point of view. Each turn of the page reveals a new month and its chores, from plowing, planting and pruning to mending, spinning and milling. The bold outlines of Manson's (Black Swan, White Crow) harvest-toned images have a strong line resembling woodcuts, and banners bearing hand-lettered gothic calligraphy flutter above each double-spread illustration, proclaiming the month along with a brief correlative verse (this for March, for example: ""I till the earth/ first sign of spring,/ And sow good seed/ while blackbirds sing""). Elaborating on each month's round of tasks, Nikola-Lisa's (Storm) succinct but informative prose provides an excellent introduction to rural life in the Middle Ages, giving readers a realistic, if slightly sanitized, view of the rigors of peasant life in a feudal society where the lord of the manor's needs always came first. Ages 7-up. (Oct.)