Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman, 1996 *audio
Brat, sometimes called Beetle, short for Dungbeetle, has neither family, home, nor name, but wanders from town to town in medieval England, begging for food and work, finding shelter and warmth in moldering dungheaps. Almost by accident she becomes the servant and assistant to Jane Sharpe, the village midwife, and herb by herb and birth by birth, she builds for herself an identity and a place. She chooses for herself the name “Alyce.” Rich characterization, setting, and humor successfully transport readers to the past, however, I found the culmination of Alyce’s quest for identity, place, and worth puzzling and underwhelming. I’m surprised it won the 1996 Newbery.