Catherine, Called Birdy

Normally, I am not a fan of diary-form fiction, but I am making an exception for Karen Cushman’s excellent book Catherine, Called Birdy.

Birdy is an energetic, sharp-tongued girl living in medieval England.  She hates wearing skirts, hemming sheets, spinning, and needlepoint – basically everything about being a daughter of a knight.  She is especially incensed at her father’s plan to marry her off…. and manages to scare away many potential suitors.

Her favorite brother, Edward, has taught her to read and write, and asked her to keep a diary for one year.  He’s gone off to be a monk, so she only sees him once a year.

Cushman draws her readers in with short, quick-tempered diary entries, which slowly become more detailed and expansive, though still interspersed with shorter entries.  At one point, Birdy decides to make up her own curse words, and tries out several different phrases before settling on “Corpus Bones!”

I wasn’t sure how Cushman could end this book without disappointing Birdy and the readers, but she managed to satisfy everyone.  As a mother, I really appreciate the change in Birdy’s attitude towards the end of the book.

Highly recommended for ages 11 and up.

One thought on “Catherine, Called Birdy

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  1. Excellent book. Highly recommend this wonderful historical fiction to anyone studying, or merely interested in middle age lore. My daughter and I read it when she was in junior high grades, and loved it. I’ve read it again recently,and still enjoyed it .


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