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

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Annotation: A collection of short one-person plays featuring characters, between ten and fifteen years old, who live in or near a thirteenth-century English manor.
Catalog Number: #16885
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Teaching Materials: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Teaching Materials
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition Date: 2008
Illustrator: Byrd, Robert,
Pages: x, 85 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-7636-4332-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-14061-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-7636-4332-4 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-14061-5
Dewey: 812
LCCN: 2003065256
Dimensions: 26 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
Schlitz takes the breath away with unabashed excellence in every direction. This wonderfully designed and produced volume contains 17 monologues for readers ten to 15, each in the voice of a character from an English town in 1255. Some are in verse; some in prose; all are interconnected. The language is rich, sinewy, romantic and plainspoken. Readers will immediately cotton to Taggot, the blacksmith's daughter, who is big and strong and plain, and is undone by the sprig of hawthorn a lord's nephew leaves on her anvil. Isobel the lord's daughter doesn't understand why the peasants throw mud at her silks, but readers will: Barbary, exhausted from caring for the baby twins with her stepmother who is pregnant again, flings the muck in frustration. Two sisters speak in tandem, as do a Jew and a Christian, who marvel in parallel at their joy in skipping stones on water. Double-page spreads called "A little background" offer lively information about falconry, The Crusades, pilgrimages and the like. Byrd's watercolor-and-ink pictures add lovely texture and evoke medieval illustration without aping it. Brilliant in every way. (foreword, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-15)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 4-8-Schlitz helps students step directly into the shoes-and lives-of medieval children in this outstanding collection of interrelated monologues. Designed for performance and excellent for use in interdisciplinary history classrooms, the book offers students an incredibly approachable format for learning about the Middle Ages that makes the period both realistic and relevant. The text, varying from dramatic to poetic, depending on the point of view, is accompanied by historical notes that shed light on societal roles, religion, and town life. Byrd's illustrations evoke the era and give dramatists ideas for appropriate costuming and props. Browsers interested in medieval life will gravitate toward this title, while history buffs will be thrilled by the chance to make history come alive through their own voices.-Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

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.)

Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* The author of A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama (2006), Schlitz turns to a completely different kind of storytelling here. Using a series of interconnected monologues and dialogues featuring young people living in and around an English manor in 1255, she offers first-person character sketches that build upon each other to create a finer understanding of medieval life. The book was inspired by the necessity of creating a play suitable for a classroom where "no one wanted a small part." Each of the 23 characters (between 10 and 15 years old) has a distinct personality and a societal role revealed not by recitation of facts but by revelation of memories, intentions, and attitudes. Sometimes in prose and more often in one of several verse forms, the writing varies nicely from one entry to the next. Historical notes appear in the vertical margins, and some double-page spreads carry short essays on topics related to individual narratives, such as falconry, the Crusades, and Jews in medieval society. Although often the characters' specific concerns are very much of their time, their outlooks and emotional states will be familiar to young people today. Reminiscent of medieval art, Byrd's lively ink drawings, tinted with watercolors, are a handsome addition to this well-designed book. This unusually fine collection of related monologues and dialogues promises to be a rewarding choice for performance or for reading aloud in the classroom.
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references (pages 82-85).
Word Count: 12,495
Reading Level: 5.6
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.6 / points: 2.0 / quiz: 115900 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:7.6 / points:7.0 / quiz:Q41510
Lexile: NP
Guided Reading Level: Z
Fountas & Pinnell: Z
NELLY THE SNIGGLER

I was born lucky. Nay, not born lucky, as you shall hear - but lucky soon after and ever after. My father and mother were starving poor, and dreaded another mouth to feed. When my father saw I was a girl-child, he took me up to drown in a bucket of water.

But here's the lucky part - and 'tis pure sooth. I didn't drown, babe though I was. I took hold with my wee fingers and held to the side of the bucket (1). And my mother wept, and my father's heart went soft, and he could no more drown me than himself-and they named me Nelly, for Queen Eleanor (2).

And their luck changed. First my uncle died of the scurvy and we got his pigs. Then the nuns at the abbey hired us to catch eels - and we've been sniggling ever since (3).

Do you see these eels? Fresher than the day they were born - and fat as priests. I know where their burrows are, and I know what they like for bait. And as for frogs - I've been catching frogs since I was two years old; there's not a frog in Christendom jumps fast enough to get away from me - and I can swim as fast as any boy - and better than Drogo, the tanner!

Do you know Drogo, the tanner's apprentice? I can't point him out to you, because he'd see me. He's always staring at me. Many's the time I've seen him peel off his hose to show me his legs - as if every frog I've ever put into a pie didn't have better legs than his!

We had a brawl last summer. I said 'twas the fault of the tanners that the river stank, and he said 'twas the fishmongers. Which is pure folly: 'tis surely God's will that fish should rot in the water, but the beasts should rot on the land. I put out my tongue, and by Saint Peter (4), he pushed me right off the wharf into the water. And then, poor fool, he thought I would drown - I, who couldn't drown when I was three hours old! He splashed in after me, and I dove down deep and grabbed his foot - and I ducked him three times, and serve him right. Only then I had to drag him out of the water - because it turns out, he can't swim! So I suppose you could say I saved his life.

He's never forgotten it. He watches me all the time - and shows off his legs. But I don't speak to him; I want nothing to do with him and his legs. I pretend I don't even know his name - and every day I walk past the tannery, just so he can see me not looking his way.

****************
1. Newborn babies have strong fngers and an instinct to hold on. The story about a baby catching hold of the bucket in which her father meant to drown her is true. The original plucky newborn was a woman named Liafburga, who lived around 700 a.d. (G.G. Coulton, The Medieval Village)

2 Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) was a legend in her own time.

3 A sniggler is a person who catches eels by dangling bait into their holes in the riverbank. Frogs and eels were desirable sources of protein during the Middle Ages.

4 Saint Peter was the patron saint of fishermen.



DROGO, THE TANNER'S APPRENTICE

I don't mind the stink-
I grew up with it, being the son of a butcher.
Dead things stink; that's the will of God,
and tanners (1) make good money.

I don't mind the work-
digging the pits
grinding the oak bark
smearing the hides with dung.
Work is work. I like
bread in my belly
and ale in my cup.

I do mind the jeering
of Nelly the sniggler-
her tongue could scrape the hair off a hide!
And I mind the townsmen
nattering on,
saying we foul the waters (2).
By Saint Bartholomew (3), think'st thou
a man can make leather without filth?
Alum, lime, oak galls, urine,
ashes, tallow, and stale beer-
these are the tools of my trade.

Would you warm your hands in leather gloves?
Saddle or bridle your horse?
Do you dance to the sound of the bagpipes,
or lace up the cords of your armor?
What about the bellows, heating the forge?
It's leather - stinking leather

Excerpted from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Newbery Medal Winner! Step back to an English village in 1255, where life plays out in dramatic vignettes illuminating twenty-two unforgettable characters.

Maidens, monks, and millers’ sons — in these pages, readers will meet them all. There’s Hugo, the lord’s nephew, forced to prove his manhood by hunting a wild boar; sharp-tongued Nelly, who supports her family by selling live eels; and the peasant’s daughter, Mogg, who gets a clever lesson in how to save a cow from a greedy landlord. There’s also mud-slinging Barbary (and her noble victim); Jack, the compassionate half-wit; Alice, the singing shepherdess; and many more. With a deep appreciation for the period and a grand affection for both characters and audience, Laura Amy Schlitz creates twenty-two riveting portraits and linguistic gems equally suited to silent reading or performance. Illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings by Robert Byrd — inspired by the Munich-Nuremberg manuscript, an illuminated poem from thirteenth-century Germany — this witty, historically accurate, and utterly human collection forms an exquisite bridge to the people and places of medieval England.


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