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Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Voices from a Medieval Village

by Laura Amy Schlitz, Robert Byrd (Illustrator)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Trade Paperback, 96 pages
Price: $9.99

It's nice to know there are still children's books that are creative, entertaining, and educational all at once. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! draws kids into the Medieval world with little difficulty using beautiful illustrations, engaging text, and plenty of information about the Middle Ages that adds texture to the short fictions.

Written by school librarian Laura Amy Schlitz to help the students in their unit study of Medieval Europe, this book is a collection of 19 monologues and 2 dialogues for kids to perform that bring to life the fictional but realistic inhabitants of an English village in AD 1255. Most of the little plays are poems, with a couple in prose.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! isn't just a list of scripts, though. Sidebars explain words, customs, figures, and events which most modern readers won't know, and periodic articles provide short essays on important cultural aspects of the era; there's even a lullaby with music and a map of the village with characters identified.

Schlitz does a good job at capturing not only Medieval life, but Medieval attitudes and sentiments. Many parents won't like the fact that some characters use oaths that used God's name in vain, but if you're just reading this rather than having kids perform the monolgues as plays, this shouldn't be a problem (and people did talk that way, so it adds realism).

Too often kids get scrubbed up versions of the Middle Ages that gloss over all the faults of the period, or else they get liberal re-writes that cast all Medieval Europeans in the role of villain. Schlitz's glimpse into an often-forgotten time and place is both honest and sympathetic, accurate and beautifully rendered. Highly recommended.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

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