Title: Catherine, Called Birdy
Author: Karen Cushman
Publication Date: 1995
Number of Pages: 224
Awards: Newbery Honor
Genre/Subgenre: Historical fiction
In 1290 England, knight’s daughter Catherine keeps a diary of her day-to-day life.
Teenage Catherine is given a diary by her brother Edward so that she may record her thoughts. Catherine is a rebellious teen who does not want to be the lady her mother is trying to teach her to be. Catherine constantly gets into trouble for being rude to her parents, running off to spend time with the peasants in the village, and throwing away her needlework. When her father begins looking for a suitable husband for her, Catherine is determined to have nothing to do with it and does her best to appear unattractive and odd to the various suitors who come to visit her family. She thinks she may be doomed when her father makes a match for her with a coarse, vulgar old man with a fortune who Catherine refers to as Shagggy-Beard, but perhaps fate will bring a way out of the match after all.
Catherine, Called Birdy is very funny and an excellent work of children’s historical fiction. Catherine is a very compelling heroine who makes even the dullest of days into amusing diary entries. I would absolutely recommend this book to young readers, particularly those who like historical fiction.
Why I Chose the Book:
I really enjoyed Catherine, Called Birdy when I was younger. I think it was actually one of the books that led to my love of historical fiction. I wanted to read it again as an adult.
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Book Talk Ideas
Have students pretend that they are a young person in Catherine’s society and create a character for themselves. Have them write a journal entry from the perspective of their character.
1. What do you think it would have been like to grow up in Catherine’s time? Name some ways it would be different from growing up now.
2. Do you think Catherine is a realistic example of a young woman from her time period and social station? Why or why not?
“Catherine, Called Birdy.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 01 Jan. 2001. Web. 3 May 2014. <http://0-search.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=njh&tg=UI&an=077823&site=novpk8-live>.
Cushman, K. (2004). Catherine, Called Birdy. HarperTrophy: New York.
Goodreads (2014). Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24137.Catherine_Called_Birdy?from_search=true