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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

"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. Unfortunately, he is also the richest. Can a sharp-tongued, high-spirited, clever young maiden with a mind of her own actually lose the battle against an ill-mannered, piglike lord and an unimaginative, greedy toad of a father? Deus! Not if Catherine has anything to say about it!…

Catherine, Called Birdy

by Karen Cushman

Overall Book Review:

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman is probably the book that instigated my addiction to children’s literature.  This book has the complexity, themes, and depth to reach an audience beyond children and young adults.  Told in diary format over the course of a year, the reader is given insight to all aspects of medieval life:  the celebrations, the work, the religious climate, the lack of personal hygiene, the superstitions, the culture, and the realities.  A delightful bonus is the sprinkling of tidbits detailing the various saints and their feasts.  This is historical fiction at its best!  However, the true charm of the book lies in its fourteen year-old protagonist, Catherine.   Catherine isn’t a flat, place-holding character.  She is a breathing, three-dimensional young woman who is stubborn, strong, compassionate, belligerent, rebellious, melodramatic, insightful, thoughtful, humorous, and complex.  Expert pacing leads to a perfect ending.  Regardless of age, everyone should become acquainted with Catherine.  I am so glad that I did!

Content Analysis:

Violence consists of the occasional cuffing of the protagonist by her father for her belligerence.  There is also a drunken brawl and a reported hanging.  The protagonist entertains thoughts of how her betrothed might suffer a violent death, thus freeing her from a marriage she does not want. 

There are references to the different ways saints have died martyrs and so forth.  Regarding profanity, almost none is present that is common today.  However, the main character does experiment with developing her own “special profanity”.  Some language used was the common vernacular of medieval times, but would seem a bit coarse if used today. 

Sexual content is non-graphic and includes such items as the protagonist wondering if she could disguise her feminine features so she could pass as a boy, passing comments on the virginal status of some village girls, and a reference to some characters “snuggled in the hay.” 

Mature Subject Matter:

Mature themes relate to the harshness of medieval life (this isn’t Camelot) and the realities of a girl growing up in a male-dominated society.

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!