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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Bookstorm: Catherine, Called Birdy

Catherine Called Birdy Bookstorm

In this Bookstorm™:

Catherine, Called BirdyCatherine, Called Birdy

writ­ten by Karen Cush­man
pub­lished by Clar­i­on Books, 1994
New­bery Hon­or book

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, pig-like lord and an unimag­i­na­tive, greedy toad of a father? Deus! Not if Cather­ine has any­thing to say about it!” 

Arranged Mar­riages. From the begin­ning of Cather­ine, Called Birdy, our hero­ine is aware that she will be mar­ried off to a man who can bring her father more land and more world­ly goods, an alliance, some­thing of mon­e­tary val­ue. She is par­tic­u­lar­ly deter­mined not to let this hap­pen. We rec­om­mend oth­er books writ­ten for teens about arranged mar­riages. 

Birds. Cather­ine has many bird­cages filled with winged friends in her bed­room. They bring her peace of mind and she trea­sures them. From true sto­ries about birds, field guides, to alarm over the dis­ap­pear­ance of song­birds, there are bird books to intro­duce to your read­ers. 

Cru­sades. With many eyes focused on the Mid­dle East, it is like­ly that you’re find­ing inter­est in the his­to­ry of the con­flicts there. Cather­ine, Called Birdy is set at a time when reli­gious and mil­i­tary war­riors are return­ing to Eng­land from the Cru­sades. We rec­om­mend sev­er­al excel­lent nobels and biogra­phies set dur­ing this time. 

Embroi­dery. The women in Birdy’s home embroi­der. They couldn’t go out and buy ready-made clothes so the only way to make clothes pret­ti­er was to dec­o­rate them with pat­terns of thread. Does some­one in your class already embroi­der? Will you sched­ule an embroi­dery demon­stra­tion for your class­room? You’ll find some books with pat­terns that will appeal to the crafters among your stu­dents. 

Fleas. Hygiene wasn’t as well-known in Birdy’s day. House were not as pro­tect­ed from the ele­ments. Fleas were a fact of life. They caused per­son­al dis­com­fort but they also caused plagues and changed pol­i­tics. Cer­tain­ly there will be those stu­dents in your class­room who will be intrigued. 

Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­scripts. Birdy’s broth­er works at a monastery where they are illu­mi­nat­ing man­u­scripts. We rec­om­mend sev­er­al web­sites that will help you demon­strate this fore­run­ner of the print­ing press. 

Journals/Diaries. Catherine’s sto­ry is told in first per­son in the form of a diary she’s keep­ing. Many stu­dents are asked to keep jour­nals. Here are sev­er­al favorite books told in this for­mat. 

Judaism: the Edict of Expul­sion. Few peo­ple real­ize that Edward I ordered all Jews to leave Eng­land for­ev­er on July 18, 1290. Birdy meets a group of Jews who are depart­ing and finds it hard to under­stand how they are any dif­fer­ent than she and her fam­i­ly. We ref­er­ence arti­cles that will give more back­ground on this top­ic. 

Medieval Life. Nov­els, pic­ture books, and true sto­ries for young read­ers have often been set in the medieval world. We offer sug­ges­tions for a num­ber of them, rang­ing from Adam of the Road, pub­lished in 1943, to Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sec­tions Cas­tle from 2013. 

Peer­age and Nobil­i­ty. Whether you’re fas­ci­nat­ed by the titles used in Eng­land or you find them con­fus­ing, here are a few guides to enhance your stu­dents’ under­stand­ing. 

Saints Days. Birdy pref­aces each of her jour­nal entries with the reflec­tion of a saint whose day was cel­e­brat­ed on that day. We’ve found a few ref­er­ences that will explain who these peo­ple were and why they became saints from an his­tor­i­cal view­point. 

Women’s History/Coming of Age. At the heart of Birdy’s sto­ry is the fact that she is leav­ing child­hood behind and becom­ing a young woman. We’ve includ­ed rec­om­men­da­tions for books on this theme that include fic­tion­al and true sto­ries over a wide span of years..

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