The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

This is one of the few books that has remained on my serious wishlist (meaning I looked for it every time I went into a bookstore) for several years. I finally found a copy last August. Fortunately, you’re smarter than I am, and will probably just order your copy online. It’s really not that rare.

Review of The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews


Brat is a homeless orphan in medieval England who travels from town to town, working and stealing to fill her belly. On a frosty night, she climbs into a dung heap to stay warm. A bunch of boys harass her awake, dubbing her “dung beetle.” She is rescued by a hot-tempered midwife who, impressed with Brat’s ingenuity, takes her on as an apprentice. Throughout the story, Brat makes friends, helps people,  takes hilarious revenge, and changes her name. She grows in competence and confidence until she has enough self-worth to allow herself aspirations.

The Midwife’s Apprentice is a middle-grade novel by Karen Cushman first published in 1991. It’s 122 pages long and won the John Newbery Medal in 1996.

Review of The Midwife’s Apprentice

When I finally got a copy, I was surprised to remember how short it is.  The story has a rare richness and depth for its length. Cushman brings out the atmosphere of village life in medieval England with an authenticity and balance that I rarely find in either medieval historical fiction or fantasy based off of a “medieval” world. This book is earthy and full of historical details that show both the relatable and strange aspects of life.

Brat is a complex character with a realistic change arc that I find especially relatable. Rather than piling on character thoughts of self-doubt and turning the character into a whiner, Cushman shows Brat’s change over time through her changing actions. This makes the arc more effective than other books where the character is having a pity party every few pages. The character is engaging and witty, even while she struggles with her own self-worth.

Bottom Line

This is one of my favorite children’s books of all time. It’s a seven-mustache book for sure. If I ever come across a hardcover version to replace the paperback that I finally found, I will definitely pick it up. I also recommend it as a Christmas gift for 10-14 year-olds, especially girls.

Have you read The Midwife’s Apprentice? What did you think of it? Are there any similar books you’d recommend?
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