Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

Summary: Using a series of interconnected monologues and dialogues featuring young people living in and around an English manor in 1255, she offers first-person character sketches that build upon each other to create a finer understanding of medieval life. The book was inspired by the necessity of creating a play suitable for a classroom where "no one wanted a small part." Each of the 23 characters (between 10 and 15 years old) has a distinct personality and a societal role revealed not by recitation of facts but by revelation of memories, intentions, and attitudes. Sometimes in prose and more often in one of several verse forms, the writing varies nicely from one entry to the next.

Historical notes appear in the vertical margins, and some double-page spreads carry short essays on topics related to individual narratives, such as falconry, the Crusades, and Jews in medieval society. Although often the characters' specific concerns are very much of their time, their outlooks and emotional states will be familiar to young people today. Reminiscent of medieval art, Byrd's lively ink drawings, tinted with watercolors, are a handsome addition to this well-designed book. This unusually fine collection of related monologues and dialogues promises to be a rewarding choice for performance or for reading aloud in the classroom. --Carolyn Phelan

My Thoughts: I listened to the audio version of this book--and it was tremendous! I'm going to be talking about Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! for a very long time, and recommending it to adults as well as middle grade students. I can't say anything about the illustrations, but if they match the scenes, writing, and relevance, I'd likely be raving about them, too.

Definitely a book I'm passing along, even to high schoolers. Love it. Love it lots.