Schlitz, Laura Amy. 2007. Good masters! Sweet ladies! Voices from a Medieval village. Ill. by Robert Byrd. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press. ISBN 9780763615789
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.
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.
~ 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.