Rebecca Reid's Reviews > Fleas, Flies and Friars: Children's Poetry from the Middle Ages

Fleas, Flies and Friars by Nicholas Orme
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's review
Feb 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: b-fic-pre-1900
Read from February 09 to 14, 2012

Fleas, Flies, and Friars: Children’s Poetry from the Middle Ages by Nicholas Orme (to be published March 2012, Cornell University Press) is something completely different from my normal reading, but I enjoyed it very much. It is part anthology of poetry that children learned and recited from 1200-1500 CE (translated from Middle English or Latin) and part a description (annotation) of how children lived and learned during those years.

At just over 100 pages, it is obviously a brief glimpse into medieval children’s poetry and society. Yet, because the annotations are written with an informative but friendly tone, it was a pleasant read for me, a curious historian and admirer of poetry in general. Children in the Middle Ages learned standards of behavior from poetry, as well as experienced the to-be-expected pleasures of lullabies and nonsense rhymes. Poetic stories of Robin Hood were immensely popular, and poetic reminders of school learning (Latin grammar, for example) helped the young child study.

Although the volume is slim and I was not a reader familiar with the status or literature of children in the Middle Ages, I highly enjoyed it. In some respects, it reminded me how some things really haven’t changed. Given the songs I learned in elementary school for learning the parts of speech, the nonsense poetry ridiculing silly teachers, and the poetic stories I still read in picture books, I’m simply pleased poetry has continued to define childhood and that there is a lot more of it to enjoy!

Read as a digital review copy from publisher via netgalley.

Cross-posted on my blog

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Reading Progress

02/09/2012 page 26
20.0% "I love this so far. Children's lit of the middle ages...."
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