Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

?Feast of All Souls, I ran from my tutor– / Latin and grammar — no wonder! / I ran to the woods, where I saw his tracks — This big — and the mud he scratched Bottom side the trees. / Followed his friants straight to his bed And found it warm. / There was a boar in the forest.?

So begins this Newbery Medal?winning volume of 17 monologues and two dialogues with Hugo, the lord?s nephew who faced down a charging wild boar. The author, a school librarian, sought to rectify the shortage of performance material for her students who were studying the Middle Ages. She does so magnificently in this fictional village, populated with archetypical children living in or near an English manor in the year 1255. Among the denizens: the aforementioned Hugo; the blacksmith’s daughter (awkward socially but skilled at the forge); Alice the shepherdess (who sings to her sheep); and Otho, the miller’s son, caught between the nobility and peasantry. Unusual words (“fraints” are boar droppings) and diverse topics such as religious pilgrimages, the Crusades, crop rotation, and falconry are glossed in welcome, often humorous asides and notes, while Byrd?s watercolor-and-ink illustrations gloriously illuminate a microcosm of medieval life. –