Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Catherine, Called Birdy” as Want to Read:
Catherine, Called Birdy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Catherine, Called Birdy

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  38,655 ratings  ·  1,582 reviews
"Corpus Bones! I utterly loathe my life."

Catherine feels trapped. Her father is determined to marry her off to a rich man--any rich man, no matter how awful. But by wit, trickery, and luck, Catherine manages to send several would-be husbands packing. Then a shaggy-bearded suitor from the north comes to call--by far the oldest, ugliest, most revolting suitor of them all. Un
Paperback, 212 pages
Published March 31st 1995 by HarperCollins (first published 1994)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Catherine, Called Birdy, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Remy first you will pick up the book. then turn to the first page and read text. after that you will turn the page. repeat steps 2 and 3 until finished wit…morefirst you will pick up the book. then turn to the first page and read text. after that you will turn the page. repeat steps 2 and 3 until finished with book.(less)
Melissa I was reluctant to read the book at first because of the title and the cover. I was much more interested in the author's other book The Midwife's Appr…moreI was reluctant to read the book at first because of the title and the cover. I was much more interested in the author's other book The Midwife's Apprentice. However, having read both, I just loved this book. I actual ended up rereading it several times over the years. Catherine is not your typical girl and her humor towards her everyday world is often times laugh out loud funny. It is also poignant at times however, and there is a lot of interesting history/customs that can be observed through her diary. I would recommend this book. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  38,655 ratings  ·  1,582 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Catherine, Called Birdy
Carre Gardner
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If there were a 6-star rating, I'd give it to this book. When it won the Newbery Medal for Children's Literature, it was Cushman's first book. It's Hi. Lar. I. Ous. Birdy is the 14-year old daughter of a 14th-century landowner in Merrie Olde Englande. While her father plots suitable arranged marriages for her and her mother tries to prepare her for being a wife by teaching her manners, needlework and herbal medicine, Birdy, the ultimate tomboy, plots ways to get rid of the suitors and sneak off ...more
J.G. Keely
Entertaining, but overall highly anachronistic. Yet another author who transplants a spunky, modern heroine into a vastly different culture without an explanation of how such a character could have developed. People forget that 'teenagers' have only existed since the middle of the last century.

I wish Cushman had created a protagonist who was both engaging to the reader and able to provide illumination of how much people have changed over time. That's the book I want for my kids. You know, if I w
In reality, this probably isn't a five-star book, but I'm giving it such a high rating because this is the book that made me love reading.
I first picked it up in 4th grade and started reading it for no particular reason, and I loved it so much I decided to read all of Karen Cushman's other books as well. The rest is history.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Catherine complains about her brother Robert and how he likes to "drown ants by pissing on the anthill."
Ten-year-old Madeline: "
They found the remains of several spindles, many skeins of wool, and an unfinished tapestry in the muck from the privy. Why is everyone so certain they are mine?

Catherine is the best. I wanted to be her best friend when I was ten, and I now want to read her adult diary more than anything in the world.
Nov 17, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Corpus bones, this book was terrible. i hated it. it was very boring and horrible.
Apr 16, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My biggest complaint about this book is how horribly she speaks of her father. We listened to it on CD (edition wasn't available to post) but the girl who does the reading has a very "common" accent. Combined with her sharp tongue I couldn't feel for the character. She sounded like she should be cleaning out the stables instead of the daughter of a knight and a lady. In fact you are always surprised when she mentions a servant.

It is written in diary format which is so popular for this age group
Dec 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, ya-novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I won't be able to read another book for a while. I'm ruined.

This book boasts a delightful heroine, and in spite of the (wonderful!) medieval setting, all the angst and rebellion and other feelings I had in my own adolescence came spilling out of the pages. Kids are kids, no matter when or where.

I loved the characters (the goat boy, the dairy maid, the brothers, the uncle, the best friend!), the hilarious diary entries, the main character's love of animals (from ants to sad, dancing bears!), a
Allen Sockabasin
Nov 18, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Gods thumbs!!!!! It was horrible and i hated it.
Cushman's Newbery Honor-winning book is wonderfully evocative, with its remarkably realized, feisty heroine determined to have a say in her own destiny, despite the strictures of her medieval society. Hilarious, endearing, and determined, Birdy's trenchant observations of the life around her are told with a refreshingly earthy honesty so real and direct that you put down the book sadly, feeling like you're being parted from a dear friend. Cushman manages to create her historical period in such i ...more
This is one of the "classic" books that they like you to read in late elementary school or early junior high. I'm sure it would hold the attention for that age. And it is rather intriguing to read a book set in medieval times, especially with a spunky heroine. But there were quite a few bawdy references, though they were made to be light or humourous. Perhaps it was like that back then, I don't know. I do know that I don't like that kind of humor, or that kind of talk in general.

I certainly did
Lars Guthrie
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sassy and charming and full of wit, I had completely forgotten how hilarious Catherine and this novel were! Or maybe I didn’t get some of the humor at the time..? Either way, I’m thrilled I decided to pick this one up again after so many years and I know it’s one I’ll be revisiting time and time again.

For the full review and more, head over to The Pretty Good Gatsby!
Excellent! Both funny and historically realistic.

Books like this is why I would never want to live in the past (even if there was a hot Scott involved) - dirt, stench, sickness, boredom, ugh.
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like it at first. After I got farther into it, I started disliking it even more. I will say, I LOVED the ending. I had predicted that she had liked this guy, and I was right! ...more
Chance Lee
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I am left with a beastly father, a life of chores, no hope, no friends, no escape, and a large bosom!" writes Catherine in her journal on October 13, 1290.


Catherine, Called Birdy is like Bridget Jones's Diary if Bridget were 14, adamantly uninterested in men, and living in the 13th century. Catherine (who is only called Birdy, like, twice), is a lady of a not un-wealthy knight, and she feels perpetually stuck. She wishes she were richer, rich enough to have servants do everything for her
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman was not one of my favorite books.
Catherine had many of the characteristics of Ella from Ella Enchanted, such as determination, wit, and assertiveness, but without the vivacity which came through in the characterization of Ella. I found myself not really caring what happened to Catherine.
The format of the novel was interesting. Over the years, I’ve realized that writing in first person without becoming repetitive, pedantic and downright boring is diffi
Lindsey Rojem
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I've owned this book for years and have read it a few times, it's always a treat. It was neat having a different perspective of being a "lady" and not fitting in.

Would fit The 52 Book Club's 2021 prompts:
10 - Related to the Word Fire
16 - Set Before the 17th Century
32 - A Selfish Character
42 - An Epistolary
47 - A Character With a Disability
Rachel Neumeier
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Totally charming.

What an irrepressible child Birdy is. Her ingenuity in getting rid of prospective suitors is especially fun, though she's irrepressible in every other context, too. For a story to give you the flavor of the times, you could hardly do better. Of course it's quite obvious how the story is going to work out, and it does take a certain deliberate authorial intervention. Though for all I know, Birdy really would have poisoned that lout if necessary. I mean, I probably would have.

Deserving of the Newberry award

Best YA historical fiction novel ever. Birdy is just as sassy as any modern girl but she's stuck in a medieval village where woman are property to be bought and sold. Her diary records the year before her marriage at age 13.
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have memories of seeing this book on the shelf of my grade-school library, but for some reason I never got around to actually reading it. Now thanks to the magic of rentable ebooks, I can finally give myself the childhood reading experience I was lacking!!!

Or kind of. I think for sure that I would've loved this a lot more as a kid, yet at the same time I would've understood far less (all the references to people "tumbling" lmao). There's a real transitional feeling about this book; it's a perf
2ND DAY OF MAY, Feast of Saint Gennys, not the one who carried his own head

If I had to be born a lady, why not a rich lady, so someone else could do the work and I could lie on a silken bed and listen to a beautiful minstrel sing while my servants hemmed?

I have probably read through this book about 80 times since the first glorious time of reading Catherine, Called Birdy. I was only about 14 myself (same as the witty Catherine) when I first stumbled upon this book and, even though we ar
Laura Garding
Apr 04, 2011 rated it liked it
There were a few times where I was a little bit bored with it. That could have been partly due to the fact that it was written for a much younger audience and some things I am just not interested in that I would have found fascinating when I was a teenager. It was a pretty fun book for the most part though. I was surprised at how much I laughed as I read this book. The main character was quite comical and had a very different personality than I was expecting. She acted very much like I would thi ...more
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Catherine Called Birdy was a witty, charming book to read. Catherine is such a great character because while she is aware that Edward will eventually read her journal, she is hilariously honest in her evaluations of people. She avoids her suitors at all costs, and comes up with all kinds of schemes to drive them away. Catherine is a relatable, down to earth character that feels real, with her devious nature and aversion to growing up, because while most teenagers want to be older and have more c ...more
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya

This book was a very fun read. I'm always a sucker for diary style fiction and this one was done especially well. Cushman really did her research about the time period and that's essential. I think this book wouldn't have been so effective if Birdy had modern ideals and attitudes.

I remember reading a book in high school that was supposed to be set during the Industrial Revolution but the main character acted as though she was living in modern times. She traveled where she wanted, did what she
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile-youth
It's a little surprising that a Newberry Honor book like this has some pretty adult themes (aren't Newberries supposed to be juvenile fiction?). Comments like "since Meg the milk maid and Gerd the miller's son were found together in the barn, it looks like we'll need someone else to play the Virgin Mary in the Christmas play" (I am heavily paraphrasing, but that's the gist). Much mention of pissing and farting too. I suppose the author has given a realistic view of medieval life in all its gritt ...more
This Newberry Honor book is really odd, so odd that I quit listening to it early on a few years ago. I picked it back up and almost considered quitting it again.

Do you think the daughter of nobility in 1200's England would be a vulgar snot nosed brat one minute and then kind to the outcast goat herd boy the next?

I do sympathize with Catherine as her father seeks to marry her off to the richest suitor regardless of Catherine's feelings. At the same time Catherine is so impossible, her father prob
Absolutely excellent. Best YA historical novel I've ever read. Thirteen year old Catherine records the doings at her father's manor's house the year before she gets married. Sassy and smart, Catherine would fit in perfectly in modern times, but she lives in a medieval world where women are supposed to know their place (under the heels of men).

But still, Catherine finds a way to make her mark on the world.

Highly recommended. This book deserved to win the Newberry award.
Leah H.
Catherine, Called Birdy is a book that I probably would't have picked up on my own, seeing as I am not a big fan of historical fiction books. The book wasn't like I expected it to be, and could be pretty interesting in some parts. I found it a bit slow in some parts, and the setup of the book was different then I was used to. It definitely wasn't a favorite of mine, but I would recommend it to anyone who really enjoys historical fiction books. ...more
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be interesting at first, but then as it went on began to see how boring it actually was.. It was a new kind of writing style for me, that I have decided that I don't particularly enjoy. I would not recommend this book unless you like a diary style writing format ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
  • Sing Down the Moon
  • The Beduins' Gazelle
  • The Second Mrs. Gioconda
  • Johnny Tremain
  • The Root Cellar
  • Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind (Shabanu, #1)
  • Chu Ju's House
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall (Sarah, Plain and Tall, #1)
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  • The Door in the Wall
  • A Single Shard
  • Sarny: A life Remembered
  • A Castle of Doomsday
  • Jacob Have I Loved
  • Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England, 1544
  • Out of the Dust
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
298 likes · 27 comments
“I watched the early morning light pass over and through the windows of colored glass, leaving streaks of red and green and yellow on the stone floor. When I was little, I used to try and capture the colored light. I thought I could hold it in my hand and carry it home. Now I know it is like happiness-- it is there or it is not, you cannot hold it or keep it.” 47 likes
“Corpus Bones! I utterly loathe my life.” 30 likes
More quotes…