In this Bookstorm™:
Catherine, 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..
Techniques for using each book: