Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

by Laura Amy Schlitz

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! doesn't really have a story. It's a series of monologues (and two dialogues) featuring characters from an English village in 1255. Each person in the play is between 12 and 15 (per the author, no one is actually identified by age), and facts about medieval England are scattered throughout, both in footnotes and individual sections. It was the Newbery winner this year, and it is a very quick read.

I actually liked this book more than I thought I would when I started it. For some reason, the fact that the language was more like the language Shakespeare used, surprised me at first. however, as time went on I really did enjoy what was being said.

My favorite characters were probably Jack, the half-wit, or Giles, the beggar. Their monologues were pretty funny. Here's a snippet from Giles:

"Good masters, sweet ladies!
I am Giles the beggar,
the best of my trade!
Behold my crushed foot!
The sight of the wound
would sicken your stomach, and soften your heart.
I grovel for mercy -
sometimes I manage real tears.
(It's an art.)"

Doesn't he kind of make you smile? I know that it shouldn't because he really would have lead an awful life, but when he talks of his con it just made me want to smile.

I really liked the story of Nelly, the sniggler. She says that her father tried to drown her the day she was born because they couldn't afford another mouth to feed, especially the female kind. Instead of drowning, she grabbed on to the bucket and held herself up. Her father took pity and saved her. Their lives improved after that. According to the footnotes, the story of an infant saving itself from drowning was based on a true story.

There are other interesting facts throughout - the fact that a runaway serf was considered free if he didn't get caught for one year and one day; how poorly Jews were treated even then; the fact that doctors thought that alignment of the stars had an affect on their patients; etc. The book was full of them, and I think a lot of them would have appealed to teenagers.

That being said, I can't imagine a typical teenager picking this book up on his/her own. Ever. The cover screams old fashioned or boring, and who cares about the "voices from a medieval village?" However, I think the book would work great in a classroom setting. We learned about the middle ages in 6th grade, and I think this book would have added to our discussion. The text would have been a little difficult, but understandable and it could have helped bring to life the things we were learning.

4 out of 5 stars

No comments: