Catherine Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice: Two Karen Cushman Novels That I Grew Up Loving

My school librarian thought I would love Catherine Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice one day and I loved them. The medieval atmosphere and setting that Karen Cushman can set up in a book I found enchanting from when I opened up their pages for the first time.

These books are funny and both have strong heroines. First of all, there’s Catherine’s story.

Synopsis: “Corpus Bones! I utterly loathe my life.”

Catherine feels trapped. Her father is determined to marry her off to a rich man–any rich man, no matter how awful.

But by wit, trickery, and luck, Catherine manages to send several would-be husbands packing. Then a shaggy-bearded suitor from the north comes to call–by far the oldest, ugliest, most revolting suitor of them all.

Unfortunately, he is also the richest.

Can a sharp-tongued, high-spirited, clever young maiden with a mind of her own actually lose the battle against an ill-mannered, piglike lord and an unimaginative, greedy toad of a father?

Deus! Not if Catherine has anything to say about it!

Catherine Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice were two of my favorite and first Newbery books, and to this day I feel like they hold the prize for best children’s medieval historical fiction.

Synopsis: A homeless girl is taken in as an apprentice by a hot-tempered midwife, and eventually, in spite of obstacles and hardships, gains a place in the world. A humorous and insightful novel filled with fascinating details of village life in medieval England.

In such a way, I can see this as a version of the book Birthmarked. But rather instead of the story after becoming a midwife, this is the story of a girl becoming a midwife and learning about her place in the world. I love the way these books are written, and Karen Cushman’s style of writing always fascinates me. Two great stories. In such a way, I can see the two girls in each other, and the way Karen Cushman reflects back and makes the two characters stronger is really interesting to me.

pg count for The Midwife’s Apprentice: 128

pg count for Catherine Called Birdy: 224


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