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The Good Master

(Kate and Jancsi #1)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,731 ratings  ·  205 reviews
Jancsi is overjoyed to hear that his cousin from Budapest is coming to spend the summer on his father's ranch on the Hungarian plains. But their summer proves more adventurous than he had hoped when headstrong Kate arrives, as together they share horseback races across the plains, country fairs and festivals, and a dangerous run-in with the gypsies.

In vividly detailed scen
Paperback, Puffin Newbery Library, 192 pages
Published May 6th 1986 by Puffin Books (first published 1935)
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J. Wallis Mary covers the answer well, below, but I'd like to chip in a thought, from a historical/cultural point of view. We used both this and the Singing…moreMary covers the answer well, below, but I'd like to chip in a thought, from a historical/cultural point of view. We used both this and the Singing Tree as learning supplements, during my years of home-schooling.

Depending on the age of the children you're reading this to, the book could be a good jump off point for talking about diasporatic peoples: from violently displaced cultures (like the Jews and Roma), to enslaved peoples (many African Tribes as well as New World Natives), to oppressed peoples who have had their cultures stripped away over a longer period of time. (Native Americans, many of the Slavic peoples, and even the Irish and Scottish, who often get overlooked (no, kilts aren't traditional, nor are bagpipes,. the're stereotypes)).

If you're reading to a 12-14 year-old audience, I would even use this as a chance to talk about "Presentism", which is one of the sneakiest forms of prejudice.

The Roma were a people group who had undergone centuries of hate and oppression, wherever they went. At one time, they truly did have a system of ethics where stealing from non-Roma, especially in a guileful or tricky way, was considered a great virtue. This was a perfectly logical adaptation to their life experience.

It is wrong to ascribe traits to an entire group of people, especially when those supposed traits are based on prejudice, instead of experience. However, it is equally wrong to deny an entire group of people their cultural history, simply because we find it offensive, by the standards and hindsight of two-hundred years later.

P.S. The grand majority of the tales of Roma "kidnapping" children turned out to be incidents of young people running off with the travelling people to escape their brutal, miserable lives, subject to the absolute authority of often abusive parents. The concept of children as individuals, possessed of human rights, is less than a hundred years old, but the desire of the human spirit to be free is as old as humanity.(less)

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4.11  · 
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 ·  3,731 ratings  ·  205 reviews

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
The Good Master, a Newbury Honor book written in 1935, is set in the Hungarian countryside in the early 1900s. If you like nostalgic, heartwarming children's fiction, this book is SO good. I recommended this book to a GR friend for her young granddaughter, and started reminiscing about how very, very much I loved this book when I was a young teen. I read it so many times when I was a 10-15 year old bookworm that I'm surprised my copy of the book stayed in one piece. I hid it in my school desk so ...more
Lyn Elliott
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this book as a child and grabbed a second hand copy of the edition I knew when I saw it recently.
It reads now as a series of episodes in Hungarian farm life in the early twentieth century, before mechanisation, when flocks and herds were cared for by men who lived close to their animals, the harvest was cut by hand and hay brought in piled high on wagons, and the country people all wore traditional dress.

Seredy has idealised the life, and given her hero and heroine a series of adventure
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-honor
Exuberant. Wholesome. Informative.

Ten-year-old Jancsi, an only child, is the first person we meet. On page 2 of the text, we learn that ...
It got so lonesome for poor Jancsi, he would have given ten horses for a brother. He had it all figured out -- he would give a donkey for even a sister. Not horses, just a donkey.

On page 76, a shepherd explains why he doesn't need money ...
"What would a shepherd be doing with money, Mister Nagy? I have everything here. I am happy. ... The sky gives me sunshin
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1936 Newbery Honor book. This is like the Little House books, except set in Hungary. I loved everything: the folk tales, Kate's antics, the details of everyday living. Why is this book not better known today? It deserves to be read.
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: juvenile, fiction
The story tells of a young boy growing up on a large ranch in pre-WWI Hungary. His cousin Kate from Budapest comes to stay with the family -- allegedly to recover strength after the measles but, in truth, because she is spoiled and naughty and her widower father cannot control her. (Yes, think Kate from Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, though I have no idea if the author intended the connection.) Over the course of a year and many exciting adventures (saved from drowning! kidnapped by gypsies! ...more
JD Sutter
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a delightful, heartwarming story that is aimed at the 8-12 age demographic, but even teenagers and adults can enjoy the great storytelling. The characters are vivid and lifelike; Jancsi, Kate and Márton in particular I found to be very relatable. Coming at this book from an adult's point of view, I found that the characters have layers to them that are more than meets the eye. But Seredy keeps the complexity of the personalities as a sort of undercurrent to the story so that while young ...more
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to QNPoohBear by: Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Jonsi, a boy from the Hungarian Plains, is unimpressed when his cousin Kate comes to stay from the city. She's pale and skinny and insults his clothing! Kate's father says she has come to recover from the measles, but the truth is, Kate is dreadfully spoiled and headstrong. Her father can not control her and is hoping is brother will be able to guide Kate with a firm, but loving hand. As weeks turn into months, the cousins have many adventures together and Jonsi may decide that having a girl for ...more
Cynthia Egbert
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love these stories that bring on nostalgia and make me ponder whether or not I could have lived and thrived back in the day. I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't have been able to, I am grateful for being here when and where I am. I had a fun moment when I turned a page and recognized an illustration from my childhood and realized that a story I loved as a child in the Collier's Junior Classics is a chapter in this book. That was fun. The other thing I loved in this book were the stories and/or ...more
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I expected better writing. We found this book did not flow well as the sentences were short and choppy. The story was okay, but my older children found it a bit juvenile.
"Little House" in Hungary. Wonderful, warm, inviting, and informative historical fiction. Perfect for children and adults of all ages.
Sep 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
When I was little I was quite a precocious reader, and my mother used to encourage me in this by forcing urging me to read lots of 'worthy' books, classics and Newbery Award winners and simplified biographies. I remember complaining endlessly to her about how boring they were, but I still did it, which must have gained her excellent bragging rights with the other mums. The Good Master was one such, but I distinctly recall enjoying it, so perhaps it was early on in the Reading Regime - before mut ...more
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it

We read this book as our "Fun Novel" at the end of Whatchamacallit (Circle Time, Morning Time, Morning Basket, Symposium, Whatchamacallit). I loved the beautiful writing, thoughtful story, and many of the ideas presented.

I was disappointed by how Romani were portrayed in the story.

Kate, a wild, spoiled imp of a city-girl, is sent to live with her uncle and his family after an illness and the death of her mother. She is completely out of control and her father doesn't know what to do with her
Penelope Dreadfulle
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received this book from my father for my tenth of three books (the other two being The Singing Tree by the same author, and The Book of Marvels by Richard Halliburton). This one I finished by sundown. All three had a profound effect on my world view that has continued on into adulthood. For a kid who grew up in the middle of the Pacific ocean, these three books opened my eyes to the rest of the world in a way that hadn't happened before.

The story takes place in the early 1900s a
Nov 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Jancsi lives happily with his parents in preWorld War 2 Hungary, on a prosperous ranch where life is busy but satisfying. When his city cousin Kate comes to recuperate after illness he is at first excited but then astounded at her headstrong, sometimes thoughtless behavior. The two children have a variety of adventures and become fast friends, under the paternal tutelage of Jancsi's father, the Good Master of the title. Except for the usual comments about girls' inferiority to boys, and the deme ...more
Megan Lengel
Aug 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Jancsi and his father, Marton, don't know wha they're getting into when they pick up Kate, Jancsi's cousin from the city, at the train station. Her father had written that she was "delicate" and had "had the measles" recently. They expect a shy little girl. They don't know that Kate's father had LIED about her!
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-library
Good book for the whole family.
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: k-12-books
A curiosity that one appreciates with the understanding of the author's immigrant experience and nostalgia for all things Hungarian.
Young Kate is "delicate," fractious, very disobedient, and restless. Her mother has died and her father is pulling his hair out with frustration, at a complete loss how to manage her. So he decides to send her to his brother's ranch in the country in hopes that something can be done with her there. Uncle Marton lives on the Hungarian plains and owns a vast amount of land and animals. Although not wealthy in terms of money in the bank, his life is full of natural riches: soil, animals, crops, and ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This is kind of a Hungarian "Little House..." in which Pop is trying to make Laura into a psychopathic serial killer. I fail to appreciate the humor of adults, like Jancsi's parents, saying "poor Little Lamb" and neglecting to deal seriously with a kid's oppositional and mean behaviors that endangers others, although maybe kids might enjoy it. On the plus side, the egotistical and monstrous Kate almost kills herself, after her many attempts to kill others, so that she eventually learns the hard ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book aloud for school. Everyone gave it 5 stars. This was a great story about growing up and growing in kindness and generosity.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Back in elementary school, an edited version of parts of chapters 1 and 2 of this book was in my guided reading book. For some reason our teacher didn't use it in class, but I remember reading and enjoying the story of wild Kate who climbed up in the rafters and stole the sausages. I had never heard of Hungary, or Budapest, but it sounded interesting.

Fast forward 45 years and I came across a copy of the book the story was taken from. Unfortunately the beautifully-drawn illustrations are in blac
I loved the Hungarian folktales sprinkled throughout the story, the simple life Kate learned from Pista (p.73), and what she reminded The Good Master of when the seedlings sprouted: “ We are so used to it that we take it for granted, instead of getting on our knees to thank the Lord for another gift.” (p.86).

Note the lovely explanation of St. Nicholas, the Christ Child and Christmas gifts when Jansci questions who the real Miklaus is. (p.184)

My only complaint was that it didn’t seem to take much
Katie Fitzgerald
This review also appears on my blog, Read-at-Home Mom.

Jancsi, who lives on a ranch in Hungary in the years prior to World War I, is thrilled to learn that his "delicate" cousin Kate will be coming from Budapest to stay with his family for the summer. When Kate arrives, however, she is not quite what Jancsi expected. Instead of being frail and sickly, Kate is wild and strong-willed! As Kate's uncle - the "good master" named in the title - does his best to teach Kate the proper way to behave, Kate
The author-illustrator Kate Seredy was born in 1899 in Hungary where she spent some youthful summers on the plains of Hungary that inspired her work of juvenile fiction THE GOOD MASTER, a Newbery Honor Book for 1935. (It was a runner-up to that year's winner CADDIE WOODLAWN, which Kate Seredy had illustrated!) NOTE: There is a follow-up to The Good Master called THE SINGING TREE, published in 1939, and that book also received a Newbery Honor Book award.

Kate Seredy, apparently, considered herse
Faith Hough
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've been pondering a lot lately on the cost and benefits of technology. Is an easier/safer/longer life necessarily a better one? We know what we gain from technology and progress, but what do we lose? What's missing from our lives when we no longer need to create and work with our hands?

While these questions were spinning around my mind, I picked up The Good Master--which I'd read years ago as a young teenager--to real aloud to my girls. I remembered being amused by the fact that this children
Angela Randall
This was a charming book, with lots of good lessons for kids on how to be a decent person. The day to day life of the farm was idyllic and peaceful - yes there's work involved, but it's a simple sort of work with real importance and value.

There are several times where value is placed on quality of life, working for love and building things that last rather than just being a part of the daily grind. Certainly worth recommending to someone with a work-life balance issue.

Throughout the book are lo
Aug 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
A frail city girl who needs fresh country air is being sent to the Jansi's house. The "frail city girl's" name is Kate. Jansi and Kate are cousins..... and there around the same age! But Kate is not at all what uncle Sandor his name is said she was like. Truth is Kate is really a Snobby, yelling brat who sometimes looks like an angel but is just getting into more and more trouble. Fredrick, his mother, and father soon find that out! But as time goes on Kate changes. It takes a lot of time for he ...more
Ashley Perham
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in seventh grade and loved it. I love books that have stories within stories, like this one. And I love books that aren't really about anything, but just mosey along!

Kate is a problem child, but I like how The Good Master parented her and for pete's sake can I throw this book at some parents I know?!

My favorite story was the rooster one. I used to tell that to all the little kids I knew, and then I completely forgot it! But now I know it, so I'll tell it again :D

I loved this boo
Lea Grover
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Aside from the SERIOUSLY problematic depiction of Romani migrants, this is an incredibly lovely book. You can get away with skipping that chapter. I read it to the kids, and after the chapter in question, had a conversation with them about racism and the cultural experiences of outsiders, and let them know that Romani people were rounded up and exterminated with Jews during the Holocaust because of the same sorts of stereotypes depicted in the book. Every opportunity to teach history and compass ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s, fiction
This is a beautiful story! I love the message of hard work and good character that comes from it. We read this in our homeschool and I am so glad. My kids adored it, too! There are so many funny parts that kept them laughing.
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Around the Year i...: The Good Master, by Kate Seredy 2 12 Jan 06, 2017 02:33PM  

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Seredy (Serédy Kató) was a gifted writer and illustrator, born in Hungary, who moved to the United States in 1922.
Seredy received a diploma to teach art from the Academy of Arts in Budapest. During World War I Seredy travelled to Paris and worked as a combat nurse. After the war she illustrated several books in Hungary.
She is best known for The Good Master, written in 1935, and for the Newbery Aw

Other books in the series

Kate and Jancsi (2 books)
  • The Singing Tree