Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Novel: Catherine, Called Birdy

Author: Karen Cushman

Target Audience: 10 and up

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Year: 1994

Setting: England; Medieval (1290s)

A Favorite Quote: “I am near fourteen and have never yet seen a hanging. My life is barren.”

My One Sentence Summary: Fourteen-year-old Catherine (called Birdy by her loved ones) keeps a candid diary of her life, including everything from the number of fleas that plague her to the detestable suitors her father considers for her impending marriage.

What I loved about this book: This book is an excellent work of historical fiction. It covers the most intriguing (and sometimes disturbing) details of daily life in medieval Europe. There is humor and there is hope and there is depth as Catherine asks big questions about faith and family and the natural order of the world. I enjoyed watching her outwit her father in order drive away undesireable suitors, and I appreciated Catherine’s character growth over the course of the novel as she begins to better understand both her family, her world, and herself.

 Major themes: Oppression of women in history; finding peace and contentment in who one chooses to be rather than the circumstances you find yourself in

Who should read this book: This is a great book for any readers who enjoy history or who are interested in the medieval ages. The diary format is easy to read and entertaining. Some content and the historical setting may make this book more accessible to slightly older readers.