The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman, was published in 1995 by Clarion.
This is it, folks. The last Newbery Medal left in the pile (until next year, that is). It’s taken me about a year and a half to get through them all, but I’ve done it. I remember at one point I was trying to go chronologically, but somewhere along the way I said “nah,” and just started pulling books off the Newbery shelf at my library. This particular reading goal is over, which means…on to the next!
There have been a few medieval settings in the Newberys that I’ve read. They’ve ranged from serious to silly to poetic. The Midwife’s Apprentice isn’t serious, but it’s not really silly, either. It’s the story of Brat/Beetle/Alyce, the titular midwife’s apprentice, and her gaining self-confidence as she learns that she isn’t just a waif found on the side of the road. Cushman’s take on the medieval setting accurately portrays a lot of things, like all the various jobs, the beliefs and customs of the time, though I’d argue that Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!is far more educational in that regard. The midwife’s antics are especially eyebrow-raising, but it shows just how unknowledgeable the medieval world was in terms of medicine.
I like how the midwife in the book isn’t a loving,
sweet person. It’s a bit cliché to have Alyce learn to appreciate her strengths
and skills in that setting. Instead, Jane Sharp belittles and degrades her, yet
even so Alyce finds her place and seeks to be successful. It shows that even
when the people around you aren’t the stereotypical kind and caring people, you
can still grow and become kind and caring yourself.
Since this is the last Newbery, next week I’ll be posting a Top Ten list of the books I thought were the best of the best, the ones that really, truly deserved that award. To be honest, I think that might be a bit of a struggle for me, but we’ll see!