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Book Review: Catherine, Called Birdy
(By Cynfyn ap Rhywallon as appeared in the September 1995 Bolt)

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Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

I originally picked up this book in hardcover, paged through it and thought "Well, it looks interesting, but it's a teen book and who knows if it's worth buying in hardcover?" I was settled when it won a Newberry Honor Award, was recommended to me, and went into paperback ($3.95) format all in short order.

I was incredibly surprised, instead of finding just another pre-adolescent fantasy or a Beverly Hills 90210 type romance set in the middle ages, I encountered a well thought out, nicely researched and oddly charming and funny book about a young girl of barely marriageable age in the England of 1290.

This woman, whose name and nickname should be obvious from the book title has a problem common to her time. Her father is attempting to marry her off to a well-off suitor - a situation that she is not in agreement with in the least! Catherine may be a bit of a dreamer, but she is also a closet rebel and she is not going to go along quietly. What follows is a humorous and sympathetic look at a young girl rebelling against the social order of her time and how she ultimately copes.

One of the interesting things about this book is that it takes a period custom that we have all at one time or another read about (girl being married off at a very young age) and puts it into a personal, rather than just a dry historical perspective.

Though this book was originally written for an early teen audience, I would recommend it to anyone for a few hours of light, but highly entertaining, reading.

Cynfyn ap Rhywallon

 Page last updated 12/15/99