I have started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all. Want to keep track of which books I read? Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!
Alyce: The Girl Who Learns
"She was not an inn girl or a nursery maid or a companion to old women. She was a midwife's apprentice with a newborn hope of being someday a midwife herself."
The story starts out with a nobody. She had no home and had no name but Brat. For as long as she could remember, she had no one to take care of her and had begged or stolen for scraps. Brat is taken in, somewhat begrudgingly, by a midwife named Jane Sharp. Jane gives the girl the nickname Beetle, and makes her work hard for what scraps she is given. Beetle befriends an orange tabby cat, adopts a little beggar boy called Runt as her brother and begins to name those around her with no name. The cat becomes Purr, the boy becomes Edward, and Beetle chooses the name Alyce. Eventually, by learning, overcoming her fears, and adapting, Alyce earns her place in the world, and the nobody becomes somebody.
The Midwife's Apprentice, the 1996 Newbery Award winner by Karen Cushman, was an excellent read, and a great glimpse into the lives of villagers in Medival England. While this book may not be entirely historically accurate, the story was plausible enough that it could happen. The protagonist, first called Brat, then Beetle and finally Alyce, is a typical young girl for her time, edging on the verge of womanhood. She has always been pushed down and bullied because of her homeless origins, and as a result, she feels she is stupid. This resonates with those who feel like they can't ever get a break. While the ending isn't a happily ever after ending, it left me feeling optimistic that Alyce would be able to find her way in the future.