Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village

by Laura Amy Schlitz, Robert Byrd

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Overview

Step back to an English village in 1255, where life plays out in dramatic vignettes illuminating twenty-two unforgettable characters. Winner of the Newbery Medal.

Maidens, monks, and millers’ sons -- in these pages, readers will meet them all. There’s Hugo, the lord’s nephew, forced to prove his manhood by hunting a wild boar; sharp-tongued Nelly, who supports her family by selling live eels; and the peasant’s daughter, Mogg, who gets a clever lesson in how to save a cow from a greedy landlord. There’s also mud-slinging Barbary (and her noble victim); Jack, the compassionate half-wit; Alice, the singing shepherdess; and many more. With a deep appreciation for the period and a grand affection for both characters and audience, Laura Amy Schlitz creates twenty-two riveting portraits and linguistic gems equally suited to silent reading or performance. Illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings by Robert Byrd -- inspired by the Munich-Nuremberg manuscript, an illuminated poem from thirteenth-century Germany -- this witty, historically accurate, and utterly human collection forms an exquisite bridge to the people and places of medieval England.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763689872
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Lexile: NP (what's this?)
File size: 74 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, the Newbery Honor Book and New York Times bestseller Splendors and Glooms, and several other books for young readers. A teacher as well as a writer, Laura Amy Schlitz lives in Maryland.

Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, the Newbery Honor book and New York Times bestseller Splendors&Glooms, and several other books for young readers. A teacher as well as a writer, Laura Amy Schlitz lives in Maryland.

Laura Amy Schlitz says that as a child, she was very lucky. “My parents gave me plenty of time to play and dream. Often, I pretended to be someone else; a ballerina, a horse, a mermaid, a spy. My brother and I ruled over a kingdom of stuffed animals—I was ‘The Great Laurie’, and the national anthem was the ‘Grand March’ from Aida.” She adored fairies and fairy tales. “I gathered bread crusts and hid them under the dining-room table—people in fairy tales were often described as ‘not having a crust to eat,’ and I was determined to save my family from this fate.” She also taught herself to sleep in the flying-leap pose, favored by Peter Pan on the cover of her fairy tale book so that if Peter dropped by when she was asleep, he would know, from her body position, that she was willing to join him in Neverland. “He has yet to turn up, but I still sleep in that position, though I wake with a stiff back.”

Laura Amy has made her living as a librarian, although she took a couple of years off to tour with a children’s theater: “It was a gloriously free and disorganized life, but eventually, I had no money at all.” She still loves the theater, and wrote her first stage play for a friend who needed a last-minute script for Beauty and the Beast. It turned out better than anyone expected, and Laura Amy Schlitz became a playwright whose plays have been produced in professional theaters all over the country. She loves to make things: bread, marionettes, quilts, watercolors, origami animals. She says, “My hands get restless if I can’t make things.” For the past thirteen years, she has worked as a school librarian, about which she says, “I am so grateful that I work with children—they make me laugh, and their energy reminds me to enjoy life.”

About her writing, she notes, “I do a lot of complaining. People often ask why I write, when I hate it so much. I answer that I write because I am under a curse. I keep meaning to give up writing, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I dread sitting down to write, and I have to resort to tricks to get myself to the paper. ‘One half hour, or one page,’ I promise myself, ‘then you can get up and do something you like.’ I go to the bathroom, take the telephone off the hook, fill my fountain pen, get myself a glass of water, and sit down. Once I sit, my rear end has to stay in place until I’ve written. I often say that I write with my rear end—it’s the ballast that holds me steady while I fight for words.”

Read an Excerpt

NELLY THE SNIGGLER

I was born lucky. Nay, not born lucky, as you shall hear - but lucky soon after and ever after. My father and mother were starving poor, and dreaded another mouth to feed. When my father saw I was a girl-child, he took me up to drown in a bucket of water.

But here's the lucky part - and 'tis pure sooth. I didn't drown, babe though I was. I took hold with my wee fingers and held to the side of the bucket (1). And my mother wept, and my father's heart went soft, and he could no more drown me than himself-and they named me Nelly, for Queen Eleanor (2).

And their luck changed. First my uncle died of the scurvy and we got his pigs. Then the nuns at the abbey hired us to catch eels - and we've been sniggling ever since (3).

Do you see these eels? Fresher than the day they were born - and fat as priests. I know where their burrows are, and I know what they like for bait. And as for frogs - I've been catching frogs since I was two years old; there's not a frog in Christendom jumps fast enough to get away from me - and I can swim as fast as any boy - and better than Drogo, the tanner!

Do you know Drogo, the tanner's apprentice? I can't point him out to you, because he'd see me. He's always staring at me. Many's the time I've seen him peel off his hose to show me his legs - as if every frog I've ever put into a pie didn't have better legs than his!

We had a brawl last summer. I said 'twas the fault of the tanners that the river stank, and he said 'twas the fishmongers. Which is pure folly: 'tis surely God's will that fish should rot in the water, but the beasts should rot on the land. I put out my tongue, and by Saint Peter (4), he pushed me right off the wharf into the water. And then, poor fool, he thought I would drown - I, who couldn't drown when I was three hours old! He splashed in after me, and I dove down deep and grabbed his foot - and I ducked him three times, and serve him right. Only then I had to drag him out of the water - because it turns out, he can't swim! So I suppose you could say I saved his life.

He's never forgotten it. He watches me all the time - and shows off his legs. But I don't speak to him; I want nothing to do with him and his legs. I pretend I don't even know his name - and every day I walk past the tannery, just so he can see me not looking his way.

****************
1. Newborn babies have strong fngers and an instinct to hold on. The story about a baby catching hold of the bucket in which her father meant to drown her is true. The original plucky newborn was a woman named Liafburga, who lived around 700 a.d. (G.G. Coulton, The Medieval Village)

2 Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) was a legend in her own time.

3 A sniggler is a person who catches eels by dangling bait into their holes in the riverbank. Frogs and eels were desirable sources of protein during the Middle Ages.

4 Saint Peter was the patron saint of fishermen.



DROGO, THE TANNER'S APPRENTICE

I don't mind the stink-
I grew up with it, being the son of a butcher.
Dead things stink; that's the will of God,
and tanners (1) make good money.

I don't mind the work-
digging the pits grinding the oak bark smearing the hides with dung.
Work is work. I like bread in my belly and ale in my cup.

I do mind the jeering of Nelly the sniggler-
her tongue could scrape the hair off a hide!
And I mind the townsmen nattering on,
saying we foul the waters (2).
By Saint Bartholomew (3), think'st thou a man can make leather without filth?
Alum, lime, oak galls, urine,
ashes, tallow, and stale beer-
these are the tools of my trade.

Would you warm your hands in leather gloves?
Saddle or bridle your horse?
Do you dance to the sound of the bagpipes,
or lace up the cords of your armor?
What about the bellows, heating the forge?
It's leather - stinking leather!

Do you want good shoes or don't you?

So be it.
Now, let me get on with my scraper and dung.
You hold your nostrils - and hold your tongue.

****************
1 A tanner is someone who cures animal hides to make leather.

2 Polluted waters are not just a contemporary problem. Almost everything that tanners used was poisonous. People like fishermen and brewers, who needed the rivers to be clean, were always at war with the tanners.

3 Saint Bartholomew, who was skinned to death, was the patron saint of tanners. The logic of this is macabre, but not unique. Saint Sebastian, who was shot full of arrows, is the patron saint of archers; Saint Laurence, who was roasted alive, is the patron saint of cooks. We won't even talk about what happened to Saint Erasmus - it's too disgusting.


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GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrations by Robert Byrd. Text copyright (c) 2007 by Laura Amy Schlitz. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

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