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Karen Cushman's Novels:
A Discussion Guide

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The Loud Silence of Francine Green
Catherine, Called Birdy
The Midwife's Apprentice
The Loud Silence of Francine Green

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple
Matilda Bone
Rodzina


"I am honored that my books are being used in mother-daughter book groups. One mother told me her daughters like that Birdy and Alyce, Lucy and Matilda, are real girls like them, not princesses, and by talking about the characters' problems, they are talking about their own. There, I think, is the benefit of mother-daughter book clubs: talking together."Karen Cushman


The young women of Newbery Medalist Karen Cushman's novels are from diverse places and times. They are strong and they are determined. They make mistakes and they make strides. These heroines embark on engaging adventures and journeys of self-discovery that are not so different from those undertaken by today's young readers.

The Loud Silence of Francine Green
Quiet, obedient, unassuming — that's Francine Green. An eighth-grader in 1949 Los Angeles, Francine is disregarded by her parents, intimidated by the nuns at All Saints School for Girls, and frightened by the government's pursuit of the H-bomb and its campaign against communism. A growing friendship with opinionated, outspoken Sophie Bowman opens Francine to confusing new thoughts. Is it unfair of Sister Basil to punish Sophie for asking questions? How do you stand up for a friend? Is the government always right? Francine begins to find out what she herself is willing to speak up for in the world around her — a challenging journey for all teens, whatever their moment in history.

Catherine, Called Birdy
Catherine has trouble accepting her role as a young noblewoman. She tells her humorous story of rebellion in a journal given to her by her brother Edward, who hopes that the practice of writing will help make her "more observant, thoughtful, and learned."

The Midwife's Apprentice
Brat is the name given to the homeless waif who is taken in by the sharp-tempered midwife of a fourteenth-century English village. Alyce is the name she gives herself as she begins to find her place in the world.

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple
Lucy does not want to be in California, even though her mother insists that there is a fortune to be made in the gold rush town of Lucky Diggins. Lucy begins a campaign to make her way back home, but in doing so she finds home where she least expects it.

Matilda Bone
In medieval England, Matilda has known nothing but religious study and piety under the tutelage of Father Leufredus. A change of circumstance forces her to live with Red Peg, the Bonesetter of Blood and Bone Alley, where she must learn that goodness and human compassion come in many forms.

Rodzina
Rodzina is orphaned after her family emigrates from Poland to Chicago. In 1881, she is loaded onto an orphan train bound for California. At each stop she wonders if a new family and a new life await her.

For Further Discussion
Groups may also wish to discuss the books more generally or in relation to one another. This section comprises the categories "Discussion Across the Texts," "Questions for Adults and Young People to Share," and "Author's Craft."





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