Catherine, Called Birdy

By Karen Cushman,

Book cover of Catherine, Called Birdy

Book description


A funny coming-of-age novel about a fourteen-year-old girl's fight for freedom and right to self-determination in medieval England.

Catherine's in trouble. Caught between a mother who is determined to turn her into the perfect medieval lady and a father who wants her…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Catherine, Called Birdy as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Much of the fiction set in the Middle Ages follows landmark historical moments and infamous individuals. But just as today, nothing is more complex than the inner life of a teenage girl, so it was in 1290. Written as a personal diary, this book follows Catherine, nicknamed ‘Birdy,’ as she trudges through her lessons on becoming a lady (sewing, spinning, soap making), her fears of an arranged marriage to a gnarly old nobleman, the importance of friendship and the heartbreak of unrequited love. Universal truths, all comically relatable and sprinkled with amusing details of picking off fleas and using the…

From Madina's list on transporting you to medieval life.

Catherine is by far one of the spunkiest young protagonists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in a book. I fell in love the moment I read the first page. The year is 1290 and Catherine’s father is determined to marry her off to the richest man he can—no matter how horrid that man may be! But her father hasn’t reckoned with the ingenuity of his young daughter. Catherine will match her wits with any of her father’s suitors and win the battle of her own independence. She will fight to the bitter end. I was championing her the whole…

From Kathleen's list on for tough girls facing tough times.

What was life like for a young woman in medieval times? Cushman brings the life and challenges of a feisty, aware young woman to life through the words of her diary. Readers will empathize with Catherine and cheer her strength at a time when young women had few rights, few opportunities, and limited resources. Cushman weaves her knowledge of the era seamlessly into this book of fiction.

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…

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