Monday, November 10, 2008

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! - Genre 5 Historical Fiction

Bibliography
Schlitz, Laura Amy. 2007. Good masters! Sweet ladies! Voices from a Medieval village. Ill. by Robert Byrd. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press. ISBN 9780763615789
Plot Summary
In this book, the reader learns about the various people of the Medieval era. Through poems and monologues written from the perspective of the village children, the reader learnes about the occupations and social status they create. Children from the lord's nephew all the way down to the beggar tell their stories and give insight to what kind of life they led.

The book also contains a foreward in which the author gives the background of the book's creation. The illustrator iincludes a two-page map of the village all the characters are from. He also provides smaller snapshot-like illustrations for each character. The author also includes a bibliography at the end of the book.
Critical Analysis
Though the language is somewhat difficult, this book provides students with wonderful insight into the Medieval world. Through the eyes of the children of a Medieval village, the reader learns about all the different types of jobs, the social status and position those jobs held, and how little choice people had in what position they held.

As the foreward states, the poems and monologues can be read in any order though reading them in order assists in making connections between the characters. The monologues also serve as excellent discussion starters for topics such as being an apprentice, cheating customers, going on pilgrimages, and the celebrations of the culture. While it proves to be an excellent tool for teaching, ultimately it is just a fun book to read.
Professional Review Excerpts
from Publishers Weekly Starred Review. 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 (Leonardo, 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.

from 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.
Connections
~ Obviously, this story could be used in a study of the Medieval era.
~ This book also demonstrates a way of presenting research in a way other than a typical research paper.
~ The monologues could also be used in a drama class.
~ Since the characters all live in the same village, they often participate in the same events. For this reason, point of view and perspective can be demonstrated.

Sarah, Plain and Tall - Genre 5 Historical Fiction

Bibliography
MacLachlan, Patricia. 1985. Sarah, plain and tall. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 0060241012
Plot Summary
In this story, a young motherless family from the midwest invites a woman from the east coast to come visit them. The hope is that Sarah will stay with them to become their new wife and mother. Through the perspective of young Anna, the reader sees how Sarah and this young family come together, learn about each other, and eventually become a new family. Sarah brings with her the love of the sea - its colors, shells, and landscape. In exchange, she learns about life on the prairie - hard work, hot summers, and wide open spaces. In the end, Anna is sure there will be a summer wedding.
Critical Analysis
This touching story, told from the perspective of a young girl named Anna, describes how a single woman from Maine leaves behind her family to become the wife and mother of Anna's family in the midwest. The author allows us to feel the pain of missing one's wife and mother as well as the anxious excitement of the possible addition of a stepmother to the family. The delightful observations of the children as Sarah introduces her east coast culture to the family and learns their midwest pioneer ways brings smiles and tears.

In addition to being a heartwarming story, the book also gives a lot of information about lief on the prairie. The reader learns that this life can be lonely and the work is hard. While there are many opportunities for fun like swimming in the cow pond and sliding down hay dunes, there are also many scary times like moms who can't get proper medical help and rainstorms that threaten to tear apart houses and barns. Readers learn about the culture of prairie life while falling in love with Anna, Caleb, Papa, and Sarah, plain and tall.
Professional Review Excerpt
from Amazon.com Review MacLachlan, author of Unclaimed Treasures, has written an affecting tale for children. In the late 19th century a widowed midwestern farmer with two children--Anna and Caleb--advertises for a wife. When Sarah arrives she is homesick for Maine, especially for the ocean which she misses greatly. The children fear that she will not stay, and when she goes off to town alone, young Caleb--whose mother died during childbirth--is stricken with the fear that she has gone for good. But she returns with colored pencils to illustrate for them the beauty of Maine, and to explain that, though she misses her home, "the truth of it is I would miss you more." The tale gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.
Connections
~ This story would be a useful illustration of the life of a farming family living on the prairie.
~ Another connection that could be made is that of comparing and contrasting cultures and exploring the idea of different cultures being able to come together.
~ From a writing perspective, the story could be connected to letter writing as well as point of view.

The Art of Keeping Cool - Genre 5 Historical Fiction

Bibliography
Lisle, Janet Taylor. 2000. The art of keeping cool. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0689837879
Plot Summary
In an effort to make ends meet while Robert's father is fighting World War II in Europe, Robert's mother moves the family from their Ohio farm to Rhode Island to live with his father's family. Upon arrival, Robert finally meets the family he had only vaguely heard about and soon discovers a great friend and artist in his cousin Elliot. During their long stay in Rhode Island, Robert, Elliot, and occationally Robert's little sister Carolyn explore the new massive guns installed at the Army Post on the coast. The boys go to school, study the uniforms of the soldiers, help maintain the garden, and befriend a German outcast who happens to be a famous painter. Ultimately, Robert also gains insight into the secretive rift between his father and grandfather. Through these experiences, Robert learns many valuable lessons of life.
Critical Analysis
This novel gives the reader a glimpse into life on the Atlantic coast after Pearl Harbor was attacked. The author subtly but poignantly describes the sacrifices made by patriotic Americans. The reader feels the fear that is brought on by the placement of huge guns at the Army Post in town and later by the tragic deaths of a friend's dad and the many sailors on the bombed ships. Once can't help but mistrust the German artist at first and then be sickened by the cruel treatment he received from the townspeople. The reader even gets a little hungry for meat. Overall, the story would be a history teacher's dream as it tells a lot about how Americans lived during World War II but presents the information in an exciting, page-turning manner.
Professional Review Excerpts
from Publishers Weekly This wrenching WWII novel traces the relationship between two 13-year-old American boys and a German-born Expressionist painter reputed to be a spy. The intimate first-person narrative brings universal themes of prejudice and loss to a personal level.

from School Library Journal Despite a misleading title (the word "cool" does not conjure up the 1940s), this is a well-drawn story that is part coming-of-age, part mystery. Robert and his mother have come to live with his grandparents on the Rhode Island coast in 1942, soon after his father has gone off to fight in the war. The coastal residents are getting ready for war and a German painter, living like a hermit on the outskirts of town, has raised suspicions of being a spy. To complicate matters, Robert's cousin Elliott, also an artist, is at odds with their grandfather, an imposing patriarch prone to anger. As the summer unfolds, the tension mounts. Robert and his mother wait anxiously for word from the front; Elliott grows more unhappy at home as he befriends the painter; the town turns against the outsider with tragic consequences; and Robert finally learns why his father has been estranged from his family. The focus is clearly on the men of the household, and cursory treatment is given to the women's feelings and thoughts. Although women in such situations are indeed often overshadowed by their husbands or fathers, the emotional depth of this story is undercut by their portrayals. Still this is a heartfelt story about family dynamics and the harmful power of prejudice and hatred.
Connections
~ Obviously, this book could be used as an example of life in America during WWII as well as provide a glimpse into life in Nazi Germany.
~ The novel could also be used to describe expressionist art and artists.
~ Another use for this book would be to explore family relationships and how past experiences shape current actions.