Catherine, Called Birdy
Why this book?
The original 1994 cover features a medieval girl giving the reader the slightest side-eyed smirk as she pulls a rope for a classic doorway-bucket prank. The cover fits the novel perfectly: they're both vivid, detailed, direct, and slightly irreverent. Cushman's presentation of medieval life creates just the right amount of culture shock to remind you that the past truly is a foreign country--Birdy's matter-of-fact relationship to her fleas, for example. "Picked off twenty-nine fleas today," she writes one day (the book is presented as Birdy's diary). While Birdy is a lady who does more embroidery than floor scrubbing, the feeling of immersion in the Middle Ages is just the sort of warts-and-all experience that I adore.