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Catherine, Called Birdy

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  30,244 Ratings  ·  1,149 Reviews
"Corpus Bones! I utterly loathe my life."

Catherine feels trapped. Her father is determined to marry her off to a rich man--any rich man, no matter how awful. But by wit, trickery, and luck, Catherine manages to send several would-be husbands packing. Then a shaggy-bearded suitor from the north comes to call--by far the oldest, ugliest, most revolting suitor of them all. Un
Paperback, 212 pages
Published March 31st 1995 by HarperCollins (first published 1994)
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Carre Gardner
Aug 23, 2008 Carre Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If there were a 6-star rating, I'd give it to this book. When it won the Newbery Medal for Children's Literature, it was Cushman's first book. It's Hi. Lar. I. Ous. Birdy is the 14-year old daughter of a 14th-century landowner in Merrie Olde Englande. While her father plots suitable arranged marriages for her and her mother tries to prepare her for being a wife by teaching her manners, needlework and herbal medicine, Birdy, the ultimate tomboy, plots ways to get rid of the suitors and sneak off ...more
J.G. Keely
Entertaining, but overall highly anachronistic. Yet another author who transplants a spunky, modern heroine into a vastly different culture without an explanation of how such a character could have developed. People forget that 'teenagers' have only existed since the middle of the last century.

I wish Cushman had created a protagonist who was both engaging to the reader and able to provide illumination of how much people have changed over time. That's the book I want for my kids. You know, if I w
Dec 20, 2010 linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, ya-novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
In reality, this probably isn't a five-star book, but I'm giving it such a high rating because this is the book that made me love reading.
I first picked it up in 4th grade and started reading it for no particular reason, and I loved it so much I decided to read all of Karen Cushman's other books as well. The rest is history.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Catherine complains about her brother Robert and how he likes to "drown ants by pissing on the anthill."
Ten-year-old Madeline: "
Apr 16, 2008 Delyna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My biggest complaint about this book is how horribly she speaks of her father. We listened to it on CD (edition wasn't available to post) but the girl who does the reading has a very "common" accent. Combined with her sharp tongue I couldn't feel for the character. She sounded like she should be cleaning out the stables instead of the daughter of a knight and a lady. In fact you are always surprised when she mentions a servant.

It is written in diary format which is so popular for this age group
V. Gingerich
I won't be able to read another book for a while. I'm ruined.

This book boasts a delightful heroine, and in spite of the (wonderful!) medieval setting, all the angst and rebellion and other feelings I had in my own adolescence came spilling out of the pages. Kids are kids, no matter when or where.

I loved the characters (the goat boy, the dairy maid, the brothers, the uncle, the best friend!), the hilarious diary entries, the main character's love of animals (from ants to sad, dancing bears!), a
Lars Guthrie
Dec 20, 2009 Lars Guthrie rated it it was amazing
I'm foregoing a real review, except to say that I highly recommend this provocative and personal glimpse into the middle ages. Karen Cushman has done her research and put together a marvelous novel which should be an exciting find for young readers. Catherine is an exciting, witty and empathetic character whose 'journal' makes the work concrete and vibrant.

The problem, as I've noted with other great books such as 'Tuck Everlasting' and 'Dragonwings,' is that the joy of finding a good book that
Laura Garding
Apr 04, 2011 Laura Garding rated it liked it
There were a few times where I was a little bit bored with it. That could have been partly due to the fact that it was written for a much younger audience and some things I am just not interested in that I would have found fascinating when I was a teenager. It was a pretty fun book for the most part though. I was surprised at how much I laughed as I read this book. The main character was quite comical and had a very different personality than I was expecting. She acted very much like I would thi ...more
Cushman's Newbery Honor-winning book is wonderfully evocative, with its remarkably realized, feisty heroine determined to have a say in her own destiny, despite the strictures of her medieval society. Hilarious, endearing, and determined, Birdy's trenchant observations of the life around her are told with a refreshingly earthy honesty so real and direct that you put down the book sadly, feeling like you're being parted from a dear friend. Cushman manages to create her historical period in such i ...more
Sassy and charming and full of wit, I had completely forgotten how hilarious Catherine and this novel were! Or maybe I didn’t get some of the humor at the time..? Either way, I’m thrilled I decided to pick this one up again after so many years and I know it’s one I’ll be revisiting time and time again.

For the full review and more, head over to The Pretty Good Gatsby!
Rachel Neumeier
Oct 14, 2015 Rachel Neumeier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Totally charming.

What an irrepressible child Birdy is. Her ingenuity in getting rid of prospective suitors is especially fun, though she's irrepressible in every other context, too. For a story to give you the flavor of the times, you could hardly do better. Of course it's quite obvious how the story is going to work out, and it does take a certain deliberate authorial intervention. Though for all I know, Birdy really would have poisoned that lout if necessary. I mean, I probably would have.

Apr 03, 2011 Devon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Catherine Called Birdy was a witty, charming book to read. Catherine is such a great character because while she is aware that Edward will eventually read her journal, she is hilariously honest in her evaluations of people. She avoids her suitors at all costs, and comes up with all kinds of schemes to drive them away. Catherine is a relatable, down to earth character that feels real, with her devious nature and aversion to growing up, because while most teenagers want to be older and have more c ...more
This is one of the "classic" books that they like you to read in late elementary school or early junior high. I'm sure it would hold the attention for that age. And it is rather intriguing to read a book set in medieval times, especially with a spunky heroine. But there were quite a few bawdy references, though they were made to be light or humourous. Perhaps it was like that back then, I don't know. I do know that I don't like that kind of humor, or that kind of talk in general.

I certainly did
Sonya Huser
Jan 09, 2012 Sonya Huser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I know this story is contrived. No 14 year old girl in Medieval England would get away with even a fraction of the things Catherine does. She screams at her father, sets the privy on fire, runs away from home, and pushes kids into the river. She would have been beaten into submission long before.
On the other hand, the rest of the book does a fairly good job of presenting the horrors of life at the time. I mean, it is a book for kids so you don't want to scare them too much! Even attractiv
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman was not one of my favorite books.
Catherine had many of the characteristics of Ella from Ella Enchanted, such as determination, wit, and assertiveness, but without the vivacity which came through in the characterization of Ella. I found myself not really caring what happened to Catherine.
The format of the novel was interesting. Over the years, I’ve realized that writing in first person without becoming repetitive, pedantic and downright boring is diffi
Oct 15, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya

This book was a very fun read. I'm always a sucker for diary style fiction and this one was done especially well. Cushman really did her research about the time period and that's essential. I think this book wouldn't have been so effective if Birdy had modern ideals and attitudes.

I remember reading a book in high school that was supposed to be set during the Industrial Revolution but the main character acted as though she was living in modern times. She traveled where she wanted, did what she
Oct 17, 2010 trina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sassy little tomboy ladies
Shelves: y-a-mazing
this book is pure GENIUS. i found my old copy the other day, stuffed unceremoniously in a drawer of junk, undoubtedly by my sister, who treats books like stinky old socks, and was simultaneously appalled by this treatment and overjoyed to have found it. it's missing the cover and is beaten all to shit, but you couldn't pay me to replace my copy. i must've read this like twenty times when i first got it. this is a book so funny, so clever and warm and well-written, it made me wish i lived in the ...more
Jul 15, 2009 Josette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile-youth
It's a little surprising that a Newberry Honor book like this has some pretty adult themes (aren't Newberries supposed to be juvenile fiction?). Comments like "since Meg the milk maid and Gerd the miller's son were found together in the barn, it looks like we'll need someone else to play the Virgin Mary in the Christmas play" (I am heavily paraphrasing, but that's the gist). Much mention of pissing and farting too. I suppose the author has given a realistic view of medieval life in all its gritt ...more
Deserving of the Newberry award

Best YA historical fiction novel ever. Birdy is just as sassy as any modern girl but she's stuck in a medieval village where woman are property to be bought and sold. Her diary records the year before her marriage at age 13.
Absolutely excellent. Best YA historical novel I've ever read. Thirteen year old Catherine records the doings at her father's manor's house the year before she gets married. Sassy and smart, Catherine would fit in perfectly in modern times, but she lives in a medieval world where women are supposed to know their place (under the heels of men).

But still, Catherine finds a way to make her mark on the world.

Highly recommended. This book deserved to win the Newberry award.
Sam T
Sep 21, 2014 Sam T rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Catherine Called Birdy. This book was so good I just couldn't put it down! I was very happy at the end of the book because she did not have to do something she did not want to do. I felt happiness inside of me because of it!

This book takes place in a palace, and a chamber inside the palace. It was surprising how Birdie' s father is making her get married. This book makes us think of how when we are parents not to make our child do something they don't want to do, such as get married.

Really enjoyed this account of life of a 14 year old girl in the 1200's in England. Castle life was not at all grand...esp castle for a Knight and his family. The wife and children still did some work/chores around the castle. money was not always available. Not sure how true that at 14 year old in the 1200's would be so obstinate to her parents...but it worked in this book. Learned about many of the Roman Catholic Days of Saints. Each day listed which saint was born that day. ex: 31st day of De ...more
Grace Meredith
This is one of my favorite books. It's an easy read, with some light humor and an interesting story. Plus, it has a bonus of the Newbery Honor Award and some medieval history.

Catherine, the 14-year-old daughter of Sir Rollo, is a wonderful character, and I admire her vivacity and spirit. Her funny, satirical view of things is something I can relate to. However, the way she views herself, and all her favors and faults, rubs me the wrong way. She is incredibly pessimistic about herself, and is ver
Nov 23, 2008 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haha, this book is really weird.
Aiyana Martinez
At first when I started reading this book, I did not get that engaged nor dragged into the book as I usually do, it took me awhile until I actually got the main points of the story which was towards to end but it was very interesting to read. The story is about Catherine, a spunky sort of rude yet honest young teenage girl in the middle ages, who tells her story through diary entries. The book is basically about how her dad is trying to get her an arranged husband but through Catherine’s opinion ...more
Clare Cannon
The fictional diary of a merchant's daughter from the Middle Ages. The gritty historical insight is coloured by the pointedly unladylike manner of young Catherine who does not wish to be married off to any man by her greedy father. Catherine's perceptions are usually earthy and often crass (the author seems obsessed with urine which features almost every entry), her discussion of love and marriage and mating is blunt (putting snow in someone's pants to cool his passion, seeking the attention of ...more
Catherine called Birdy
Catherine called birdy is a book about a girl named Catherine who is a very strong independent woman, whose father is trying to give away her hand in marriage. She views the men her father brings into the home and then judges them silently. Then when she finds something wrong with them she makes herself appear unappealing and downright gross. She doesn’t like the life she lives because she always seem to be doing needle-work all cooped up in her room. Many different times
Oct 17, 2012 Emma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this book title on a list of historical fiction books online, and I remembered reading it in elementary school so I decided it would be fun to reread it and see what I remembered and liked about this book. The plot of this story centers around Catherine, and the fact that her father would do just about anything to make sure she marries a rich man. Catherine uses some of her own tactics to make sure these men go running for the hills, because she does not want to marry them. Birdy, as she c ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Elisbet rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: preteens, young teens, interested adults
Recommended to Elisbet by: school
This is a book I have read and re-read to pieces. It's become a familiar friend, oddly enough, even long past school-required reading and into adulthood. I'm not entirely sure of the historical accuracy, but as the "coming of age" tale of a young girl in medieval England, it's pretty good! There's enough action to satisfy most kids, male and female alike. Birdy faces many age-related trials and tribulations, and slowly learns about the truths of life along the way. This is one of those books tha ...more
Steph Su
Apr 20, 2009 Steph Su rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
In no other book set in thirteenth-century England has such a willful and admirable protagonist starred. Catherine, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a knight whom she claims is a rude pig, is called Birdy, and somehow the name suits her. She’d much rather be a villager, frolicking outdoors all day and not being reprimanded for getting her feet and clothes dirty.

Unfortunately for her, a well-off young lady has but one aim in life, and that is to be married to a well-off man. Throughout the year
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Karen Cushman was born in Chicago, Illinois.

She entered Stanford University on a scholarship in 1959 and graduated with degrees in Greek and English. She later earned master’s degrees in human behavior and museum studies.

For eleven years she was an adjunct professor in the Museum Studies Department at John F. Kennedy University before resigning in 1996 to write full-time.

She lives on Vashon Isla
More about Karen Cushman...

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“I watched the early morning light pass over and through the windows of colored glass, leaving streaks of red and green and yellow on the stone floor. When I was little, I used to try and capture the colored light. I thought I could hold it in my hand and carry it home. Now I know it is like happiness-- it is there or it is not, you cannot hold it or keep it.” 40 likes
“Corpus Bones! I utterly loathe my life.” 24 likes
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