This hilarious play works remarkably well as an audiobook - the text and the actors' voices tell you everything you need to know about what's happeninThis hilarious play works remarkably well as an audiobook - the text and the actors' voices tell you everything you need to know about what's happening on stage, especially if you're familiar with the story. I've known (and quoted) this play for so long that it's hard to distance myself from those memories, so newcomers might be confused - I'm not making any promises. But if you aren't familiar with the play, what are you waiting for? Seriously. "I asked for bread and butter, and you have given me cake."...more
At long last I've got my hands on the 2008 Newbery winner, and it has my seal of approval (actually, I just put the Newbery sticker on the spine, sincAt long last I've got my hands on the 2008 Newbery winner, and it has my seal of approval (actually, I just put the Newbery sticker on the spine, since it was my library's copy and has been in circulation constantly since before it won the shiny gold medal). I can with near certainty say I would've loved this in middle school. We did a whole medieval unit in about 6th grade, just like Schlitz describes in her forward, with model castles and everything. We even enacted a play about Sir Gawain, and this book would've been a perfect addition to our curriculum. At the very least, Bronwen and I could've read it aloud to each other while we textured our castle walls.
In all seriousness, it's a great combination of things. There are the dramatic monologues and dialogues that make up the bulk of the book - some are funny, some are depressing, but they all manage to pack in an incredible amount of information without sacrificing emotion or interest. Footnotes (found delightfully in the side columns) define archaic words or cultural references. A few sections called "a little background" are inserted in between stories, giving more information on pilgrimage, the Crusades, Falconry, Jews in society, town vs country life, and farming practices. Far from being dry, these answer questions about What It Was Really Like that were rarely found in my 6th grade history book. As Schlitz points out in the forward, she usually got that sense of history from novels, not history lessons. I've had exactly the same experience, and I'm happy to say this book falls into the "novel" camp.
I was pleasantly surprised by Robert Byrd's illustrations, and how much they added to the book. From the tiny image of the cover art seen online, I was underwhelmed - it all looked a bit too soft and cartoony. But up close, the details really bring the illustrations to life and compliment the stories perfectly.
I keep talking about middle school, but I think the book could go a few years younger, too - although I don't know if younger students could manage to actually memorize and perform the monologues....more