Matilda Bone

by Karen Cushman

Paperback, 2002



Local notes

PB Cus


Yearling (2002), Edition: First Edition, 176 pages


Fourteen-year-old Matilda, an apprentice bonesetter and practitioner of medicine in a village in medieval England, tries to reconcile the various aspects of her life, both spiritual and practical.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

176 p.; 5.25 inches





User reviews

LibraryThing member ankhet
Matilda, an orphaned teenager, has been left at the door of a bonesetter by the priest who has practically raised her to stay, work, and learn while he goes to London to return who-knows-when. Matilda thinks herself far above Red Peg, the bonesetter she is left to help, because she, unlike Peg or most people in Peg's town, can read and write Latin, French, and a little Greek, knows all the saints and most of the demons of Hell and knows her numbers.

Little does Matilda know that the life she has found herself dropped into has much to teach her, both in temporal and in spiritual matters: Life is not meant to be dour and "holy"-fied; sometimes folk wisdom is better than empty book learning; good friends are better than dead saints.

Although Matilda starts the book off very annoying in her sanctimonious self-righteousness, she drops the attitude as she begins to learn the value of street-smarts and folk wisdom. Matilda Bone is similar to Cushman's other books, "Catherine, Called Birdy" and "The Midwife's Apprentice" - even to the point where I could predict several plot points from knowing those books. It's not as good as "Catherine" and is probably on par with "Apprentice."

2.5 stars: I would have liked it so-so as a kid, but it's not something which would have stuck with me like good childrens' books have.
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LibraryThing member bluemopitz
Excellent story about an apprentice to a bone setter in medieval Europe.

Could be used to learn about early European medicine or apprenticeship.
LibraryThing member daisyacg
4Q 2P
This was a very niche-specific book. The young girl Matilda becomes an apprentice to a bonesetter and must learn the ways of Red Peg, despite her devout and pious training. The religious undertone was very off-putting for a reader and those without Christian background or interest may not like Matilda because of her constant religious speech and deference to saints. The story was written very well and had nice inserts of humor, but it moved very slowly without any major altering events driving the story.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jaie22
More a kids book than the YA I've called it. Therefore, ended far too quickly for my taste.
LibraryThing member satyridae
I liked this, though I found it fairly heavy-handed. Young Matilda has been raised by a priest to be humble but learned in Latin, to be obedient and not to question, to be a priggish pain in the tush, in other words. She's suddenly sent to live with Red Peg the Bonesetter, and oh, how Matilda hates this new life where Latin isn't important, and God is about love instead of punishment, and where the unschooled and the ignorant help people in distress. Heavy-handed, but sweet and well-researched and worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member bunwat
I like Karen Cushman a lot, she has a feeling for the telling details that allow her to tell a lot of story in a few words. The narration was engaging and the story was terrific and I enjoyed it very much.
LibraryThing member pennsylady
Juvenile fiction highlighting 14 yr old bonesetter's apprentice Matilda Bone.
Medieval medicine is highlighted, featuring elements such as bloodletting, bonesetting, foul smelling medical cures and frightening surgeries of the time
LibraryThing member foggidawn
Matilda grew up in a manor house, where the only work expected of her was to assist Father Leufredus, the priest, in his studies. She knows Latin and some Greek, the names and stories of hundreds of saints, and how to be meek and obedient. None of this helps her much when Father Leufredus is called to London, and apprentices Matilda to a bone setter named Red Peg in a town halfway between London and Oxford. Peg is full of good humor and common sense, but all Matilda can see is how different she is from the priest and his teachings. Can Matilda look beyond her preconceptions and find a place in her new life?

I typically like Cushman’s historical fiction, but Matilda is a difficult character to love. She does soften up a bit by the end, but reading about her self-imposed misery for most of the book is not a lot of fun. And, while I liked some of the secondary characters, I had trouble keeping them straight. Recommended only to those who can’t get enough of Cushman’s writing.
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LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Interesting but not enjoyable. I disliked Matilda at the beginning for being so limp and priggish - then I began to seriously dislike Father L for messing her up so badly. What did he have in mind, or did he even think about her future? Happy ending (or at least hopeful), eventually, but it was a real slog getting there. The stuff about medieval medicine was interesting - mostly I knew it, but as dry facts. Having characters live it made it much richer. Glad I read it, I might read more by her, but I don't think I'll ever want to reread this.… (more)
LibraryThing member keebrook
a wonderful book introducing the middle ages to children but, really, to anyone. Cushman does a good job of animating the everyday life of a person in medieval England and has truly done her research on just about every aspect of medieval life but focused on medicine and religion.

surprisingly, this book teaches critical thinking and confronts overly pious and zealous attitudes with enthusiasm. Matilda Bone was raised in a minor noble's manor by a priest who is delivered to a bonesetter named Peg who lives on Blood and Bone Alley in a small village. at first, she is disdainful to the extreme of all the lower class people who work for a living thinking that prayers to saints and deference paid to haughty personages like Master Theobald, the local physician who really knows nothing, is the only proper way to live your life and solve problems. she eventully comes round to see that knowledge and work like Peg and the other villagers do is not unworthy and that her mentor, Father Leufedus, was not the font of infallible information.

a great book for kids to learn about the middle ages, living life humbly and gratefully, class prejudice, and thinking for yourself.
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(114 ratings; 3.6)
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