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The Midwife's Apprentice

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3.73  ·  Rating details ·  38,700 ratings  ·  1,838 reviews
From the author of Catherine, Called Birdy comes another spellbinding novel set in medieval England. The girl known only as Brat has no family, no home, and no future until she meets Jane the Midwife and becomes her apprentice. As she helps the sharp-tempered Jane deliver babies, Brat--who renames herself Alyce--gains knowledge, confidence, and the courage to want somethin ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published August 16th 1996 by HarperTrophy (first published January 1st 1995)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  38,700 ratings  ·  1,838 reviews


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Andrea Cox
I thought this children's book looked interesting, but it turned out to be crude, abrasive, and creepy. I was especially disappointed in the content, which seemed much too advanced for its intended audience.

This book was found in my library's children's section, which is specifically meant for children under thirteen years of age.

Content: devils and demons, witches, evil, transgenderism, marital affair, a couple of teenagers caught having sex, magic, superstition, child abuse, verbal abuse, prof
...more
Aerin
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade, newbery
I read Catherine Called Birdy, a Newbery Honor Book, about ten years ago, and while it was interesting it wasn’t quite captivating enough for me to want to read anything else by Karen Cushman. Still, when The Midwife’s Apprentice showed up on Paperback Swap, I figured I’d give it a try.

A Newbery Medal book, The Midwife’s Apprentice tells the story of a girl with no home, no parents, and no name. One frosty night, she find warmth sleeping in a dung heap. The next morning, Jane Sharp, the village
...more
Jennie
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The midwife finds Brat asleep in a dung heap. She says she will work for food, so the midwife takes her on, having her do the housekeeping and herb-gathering and renames Brat, Beetle. Beetle is not allowed to assist when the midwife delivers a baby, but she watches from the windows and learns the midwife’s skills.

One day, she gets to go to the fair to buy things for the midwife. There, she decides that she needs a real name, a proper name, and starts calling herself Alyce. One day, in the middle
...more
Madeline
Jul 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really liked Karen Cushman's books as a kid, and I think one of the big reasons for this (aside from the fact that, although two of her books take place in the Middle Ages, neither protagonist is a princess! *gasp*), is that she never sugar-coats the history. Take The Midwife's Apprentice, which is about a homeless, nameless orphan girl who gets a job as...guess. No, go on, guess.
Delivering babies in the Middle Ages was not only life-threatening and painful, it was gross. I remember reading th
...more
Connie  Kuntz
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There will always be a part of me that wishes I was a midwife, so I totally loved this book. The kids did, too, although I am not sure any one of them aspires to midwifery.

The midwife herself is a bully, but Karen Cushman provided just enough detail about her so that the kids and I could not completely despise her. For example, the midwife herself gave birth numerous times, but her babies all died. The midwife also, in spite of being coarse and arrogant, is wise, and she mentions as-a-matter-of-
...more
Emilie
Oct 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There are few books that I come across, pick up, and just check out of the library on mere whim. There are even fewer books that I start over the minute I finish them.
The Midwife's Apprentice is one of these precious few.
It has no plot twits, mysteries, sexy vampires, gothic mansions, or pomp or circumstance. Its just a simple coming of age story about one of the sweetest, quietest, and purest characters to ever touch your soul.
Its a short simple story, but its simplicity makes it so strong an
...more
Chicklet
Oct 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in early birthing practices
Shelves: historical
A lot of historical research must have gone into this book, very well done. I'm amazed at both how much and how little people of this era new about pregnancy and childbirth.
While the cover of this book seems to be geared toward children, I would NOT hand this over to a child who does not already know about childbirth and pregnancy in detail. Even then, it would be wise to go over the book when they're done so they don't end up with bizarre and inaccurate ideas about having babies. Cushman is a
...more
Bobby Simic
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kidsstuff, historical
Summary:
Orphaned since as long as she can remember, Beetle becomes employed by the cold village midwife. And while her payment is meager, Beetle eventually gains confidence in herself and her abilities through her work.
Strengths:
While it uses the language of the time, the book is surprisingly accessible -- no doubt helped by its short length (my edition was barely over 100 pages). Despite being from a different era, Beetle's plight still can be relatable; she's someone who has believed all the n
...more
Linda Lpp
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Saw this book listed on the audio list for the public library. Not necessarily a child's book, but closer to a young teen. Or for an old lady like me!
Enjoying it as MY cat is curled up beside me. Interesting perspective of a homeless, poor girl who has never known her roots. She usually goes hungry. Sleeps burrowed into the warmth of a dung heap (if lucky to find one). At this point in the story (Chapter 7) her struggles are continuing, but she has been given some hope-chores for the mid-wife in
...more
Kat
Basic Plot: A homeless girl in medieval England finds her place in the world and her purpose.

The situation of the poor girl at the beginning of the book about tore my heart out. Homeless children are a particularly hard thing for a parent to bear. This story was simple, but the meaning of it is what is really important. Alyce (the name she chooses for herself, as she had none at the beginning) really has nothing, not even pride, at the beginning of the story. She is abused by everyone around her
...more
Maria
I don't know how I remained ignorant of this book's existence for so long—I read Catherine, Called Birdy growing up and felt like I encountered it fairly regularly in bookstores/libraries/other people's reading histories. When I did finally learn of The Midwife's Apprentice through GR, I was shocked that it actually has more ratings than CCB, and won the Newbury (which CCB was "only" nominated for). It kind of feels like I grew up a fan of Jamie Lynn Spears, thinking she was a big star, only to ...more
Damian
Oct 29, 2015 rated it liked it
I would have given this book a 3.5 star rating if there was one. I felt this had a slow plot to it, but I found that I liked it more as I read on. However, just when I really started to like it, it ended. The ending was not bad, but it definitely just left you there like, "What." Since it was only 117 pages or so, I think this is why. Otherwise it was not bad.
Lynn
This was such a pleasant surprise! Cushman's writing reminded me of Tracy Chevalier's writing. (Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of the very best historical fiction books I've read!) She was able to make me feel as if I was right there with Beetle/Alyce. I could glean the details of life during this time period through the character's actions. So easy and yet revealing! And, I particularly could relate to Beetle/Alyce since he companion was a an orange cat (appropriately named Purr!), much like ...more
Tanya
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now I'm going down the Karen Cushman rabbit hole.
I am 52 years old and just about all I can read anymore are middle school books.
Lack of time, attention span, or regressive disorder?

You decide.

This book was good and just what I needed. I love Alyce.
Blake Medford
Dec 11, 2012 rated it liked it
I think that The Midwife’s Apprentice would be a book that would be difficult to teach in a middle grades setting. The book covers how children are born and has some rather crude scenes. That being said I think to teach the book would depend on the area. An area that I wouldn’t touch this book would be here in Georgia. In the middle of the Bible belt does not seem like the place to study a book that involves a woman yelling into another women’s vagina at a baby to come out. Considering how most ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
The story opens with a young girl with no name, no family, burying herself in a dung heap for warmth. The girl is taken in by a midwife, Jane, who dubs her Beetle for her choice of sleeping quarters. Jane’s decision to take Beetle in is not due to benevolence, however, but greed; Jane sees that Beetle is a hard worker who will lighten her load. Jane gives Beetle all the difficult work of her profession, but she is careful to keep Beetle away from observing Jane during delivery, fearing Beetle wi ...more
Suzanne Moore
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jesse
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
How do you know when a piece of historical fiction is written really, really well? When the thought of living during that time makes you run for the shower! Karen Cushman has a gift for portraying time periods accurately, and the setting for The Midwife's Apprentice is no exception. Beetle, our protagonist, is first described as sleeping in a dung pile, but is soon discovered by Jane, the curmudgeonly midwife who sets her to work as her apprentice. As Beetle becomes more knowlegeable about her t ...more
jess
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: zines, 2012, yaf
I picked this up because I was fascinated to read about how midwifery was handled for a juvenile audience. You know how people freak out about kids knowing where babies come from? It was interesting from that perspective, but I ended up really enjoying the book. The protagonist is a homeless, nameless ragamuffin who gets taken in by a village midwife and learns a bit about the work of bringing babies into the world. The confidence that comes from having a place in the world starts to change the ...more
Amalie
This is a realistic medieval fiction for young readers 12+ and a well-deserved Newberry Medal winner.

This tale follows the trials and tribulations of a young girl (Beetle, named because as homeless she uses the dung for heat.) in early medieval times. She finds herself apprenticed to the local midwife, knowledge and wisdom alone, and finds her place in the world.

Cushman has researched the subject well. We learn about village life, medicine, feudal structure, and the place of women in that socie
...more
Cynthia Egbert
This is not a book for young children, there are some serious issues and situations that this young lady experiences but I do believe that it showcases medieval village life as well as a short novel can. I was sad for this one to end, I really wanted to continue to follow Alyce's life now that she has finally found herself and the confidence she needs to really carve out a life for herself as a true midwife. If your child reads this, you will want to become familiar with it yourself as there are ...more
Beth
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent historical fiction for preteens! Cushman portrays the life of a homeless orphan in medieval England -- a girl so bereft of all background that she doesn't even have a name -- and how she slowly carves out an identity for herself by keeping her eyes and ears open, and by working hard at challenging assignments.
RenéeR
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The book is alright to read. So the book is about a girl that is a midwife apprentice and she doesn’t know her name and she tries to figure it out with a loveable cat she meets. The best part of the book so far is when she figures out her name. I would say that it’s for 12 and up for the age.
lucy  black
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This short fairy tale like story is just the right mix of bitter and sweet. I read it slowly because it is a short book and I didn't want it to end.
Julie
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This Newbery winner from ages ago is still worth a read. Strong voice and amazing character arc make it a timeless story of a girl learning to never give up.
Katy
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Beetle is an orphan girl in the Middle Ages. She is alone and seeks friendship and purpose and eventually a career in Midwifery.
Aj Sterkel
The Newbery committees seem to have a deep love for books set in Medieval Europe. Maybe because you can disguise education as sword fighting? I don’t know. There seems to be a lot of Medieval Europe Newbery winners.

The Good: The Midwife’s Apprentice is skillfully written. The author avoids educational info dumps while seamlessly blending facts with an entertaining story. I learned a few things about the superstitions of Medieval midwives. The main character is an orphan who has been abused for
...more
Melanie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A. L. Sowards
I read this aloud to my seven-year-olds. It held their attention most of the time, but they didn’t beg me to read it to them like they did with the last book. Maybe they aren’t into history (that would be very disappointing—but they like Magic Tree House books, so I don’t think that’s the case), or maybe the omniscient viewpoint made it hard for them to connect with the protagonist. I thought it was an okay book. The writing was good and I liked the light it shed on medieval English midwives (it ...more
Lisa
Beautifully told historical fiction for Middle School students. Set in Medieval England, it tells the story of a young girl searching for identity. The story highlights how identity is shaped both by our own understanding of self and the outer world's perception of what we are, how it shifts and grows along with our experiences. The main character's name is a wonderful symbol for this development. First, the young orphan is only known as Brat, later she is called Beetle. In the end, she gives he ...more
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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

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