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Reading this book was the next best thing to traveling back in time to the Middle Ages. Laura Amy Schlitz, a school librarian, wrote these monologues for her students studying medieval history to perform. These little gems - in prose, blank verse and rhyme - portray 23 young people living near an English manor in 1255.
The characters sprang from the pages, brought to vivid life by Schlitz's lyrical writing and Robert Byrd's evocative illustrations. I was completely absorbed in the day-to-day happenings of their medieval village. I didn't just read this book; I experienced it. After I closed it, the villagers lived on in my mind with all their joys and struggles.
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! had an absolutely authentic feel. Schlitz did not write dumbed-down or cleaned-up medieval history. Her villeins worried about growing enough food on their strips of land to survive another year. Her women remembered the perils of childbirth and fretted over feeding another hungry mouth. And Lowdy, daughter of a hound-keeper, scratched, slapped and prayed, "God save us from the fleas!"
Schlitz included helpful, unobtrusive notes and essays on medieval life, covering such subjects as the crop-rotation system, falconry and pilgrimages. These fit so well with the main text I was never torn away from the villagers' struggle for survival, but only more enlightened about their lives and their world.
This absolute jewel of a book won the 2008 Newbery Medal, which it more than deserved. My words can't do it justice. Read it, then share it with a child.