Lars Guthrie's Reviews > Catherine, Called Birdy

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
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Dec 20, 09

Read in December, 2009

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 truly fits you and inspires you has been robbed by 'Catherine, Called Birdy' being required reading, in this case for a seventh grader with whom I have been working.

I don't think I'm reading too much into these types of requirements by assuming this they are assignments that have been recycled over many, many years. I know I've read this particular standard multiple, multiple times because kids with whom I work have to. They are assignments accompanied by 'guides' where wiley kids quickly surmise expected answers, while others miss them, but where answers are expected, and thus, right or wrong, and highly predictable. No real thinking is necessary.

Is anyone energized by this kind of reading? Teachers or students? Not too often. It's a shame, especially when it's such a wonderful book that might open up new horizons if it could be discovered, instead of assigned.
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Amory Blaine I was assigned this book in 7th grade, and I enjoyed it. It was very much in the vein of books I was reading on my own at the same time, though.


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