Reviews for Outrageous Women of the Middle Ages

Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 April 1998
Gr. 4^-7. In the Newbery Medal winner The Midwife's Apprentice (1995), Karen Cushman shows that it is possible to write with wit and humanity about women in the Middle Ages and still stay true to the spirit of the time. However, this collective biography is so "hip" that it transforms Eleanor of Aquitaine and other great medieval women into "teens" who are "hanging out" at the Crusades "with more business miles than any frequent flyer." In fact, the anachronism is sometimes so blatant that it reads like parody. It is condescending to young readers to make every time and place a generic setting for contemporary "role models." And yet, these 14 lively profiles will at least get middle-graders beyond the remote, portentous view of history and introduce them to the fascinating lives and times of some influential women from Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, and North Africa. As in Outrageous Women of Ancient Times (1997), Leon draws on many primary sources for the historical facts. The social history will intrigue readers, whether it is about the European woman who became a nun to get an education and avoid an unwelcome marriage or about the sharp-tongued Japanese writer Murasaki Shikibu, who wrote the famous Tale of Genji. Kids will see that "these tough cookies were often on their own." ((Reviewed April 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

School Library Journal Reviews 1998 August
Gr 5-10-As she did in Outrageous Women of Ancient Times (Wiley, 1997), León again uses lively prose and modern comparisons to make the past understandable to young people. "When religion was the only game in town," readers learn, Hildegard of Bingen lived "in a gloomy torch-lit room about the size of a breakfast nook." The author's characteristic blend of playful language and historical accuracy tells of a Viking killed by a severed head, a queen who knew the meaning of congregating frogs, and much more. The stories and sidebars provide a detailed picture of the times. It is rare to see a book about the Middle Ages that presents such diversity. The women profiled lived in the 6th through 14th centuries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Their spheres included everything from astronomy to warfare. They were nomads and empresses. The list for further reading is impressive; the black-and-white drawings and reproductions are appropriate for the text. Patrons who found Karen Cushman's Catherine Called Birdy (1994) and The Midwife's Apprentice (1995, both Clarion) interesting will find this book fascinating.-Rebecca O'Connell, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews