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7 Astounding Life Lessons I've Learned From Catherine, Called Birdy


Scoring two impressive children’s literature awards, this historical novel is without poverty of thought. Catherine, Called Birdy, written in diary format by Karen Cushman, bagged the Newbery Honor Book award in 1994 and also won the Golden Kite award in 1995.

(Just a quick trivia, a Newbery award is considered one of the most prestigious awards for children’s literature in the US. While a Golden Kite award is being given annually to recognize excellence in children’s literature.)

The author, Karen Cushman, is a historical fiction writer whose other novel, The Midwife’s Apprentice, also won the Newbery Medal for children’s literature. Karen Cushman has a bachelor’s degree in Greek and English; and a master’s degree in Human Behavior and Museum Studies.

This isn't a newly published book though, in fact it was first released way back in 1994. So, you might ask: why am I so fascinated with this old book and a children’s book in particular?

Well, this type of book wasn’t really on my usual reading menu. This was a borrowed book from my church mate, who owns a tutorial center. She posted this on Facebook and recommended as a good book to read. And I guess it was enough to make me curios.

Catherine, Called Birdy, was actually the first historical fiction I read that’s written in diary format. Personally, since I usually scan and skim the book before reading it as a whole, I was reminded how I used to journal my thoughts unremittingly on my diary especially during my teenage years. This first impression sparked my curiosity so much so that I finished the book in one sitting.

The novel's primary setting was in thirteenth century England, and for my part, I’m also deeply enthralled with England, its history, culture and evolution.  The book contains information about the food, clothes, religious beliefs, manners, health, medical practices, and sanitary habits of the medieval people. Thus, this historical fiction awakened my unrelenting desire to know more about it.

The main character was Catherine, better referred to as Birdy, a teenage daughter of a minor English nobleman. The novel’s vehicle for storytelling was Catherine’s daily life written on her diary. Birdy was compelled by his brother to write a diary because he believes that in the process it will make her more mature and less childish.

Writing the routines of her young life, Birdy relates many details and facts about her time. She looks upon the world around her, write stories about the people she knew and of the daily events of their small manor house. Catherine, as the only daughter of a minor English nobleman, felt trapped learning how to be a lady. She also finds it difficult to accept an arranged wedding set by her father.

The novel was a delight, thought-provoking, wonderfully written in expressing old-fashioned, yet relatable trappings that’s authentic to most young people of all generation. I also enjoyed the oft comic narrative of Birdy, her character was authentic, tenacious, and at times--naive.

Aside from the fact that it inspired me to regularly journal my thoughts; it has several astounding life lessons worth heeding. I encourage you to read the book in its entirety. And in case you need some convincing, these seven good points from the book might persuade you.

  • On authenticity: “In the world to come you will not be asked why you were not this or that, but why you were not yourself.”
  • On pragmatism: “Do not be like the stupid man. Know where you yourself are.”
  • On wisdom: “Flap your wings at times, choose your fights carefully, get things done, understand your limitations, trust in God and a few people.”
  • On relationships: “Patience, gentleness and a willing heart will make the most of any union.”
  • On strength: “I can do what I must and still be me, still survive and thrive.”
  • On success: “I cannot escape my life, but can only use my determination and courage to make it the best I can.”
  • On contentment: "You are so much already Little Bird. Why not cease your fearful pounding against the bars of your cage and be content?" 

I hope this post inspired you today. Let's keep reading and learning! 😊


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