Orphaned Matilda is not at all pleased when she arrives at Blood and Bone Alley to become an assistant to Red Peg the Bonesetter. She is a religious, well-educated girl who can’t picture herself doing dirty chores or helping sickly patients.
Each day is very different from her former quiet life. Matilda’s not used to being around so many people who are coming and going, laughing and eating. Not one of them seems interested in prayer or study.
Self-centered Matilda thinks no one understands her. But Peg does, and gives her time to get used to this new way of life and teaches her through kindness and friendship. Matilda is as surprised as anyone when she begins seeing the world around her in a different way.
Awards and Recognition
American Bookseller “Pick of the Lists”
New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
School Library Journal, Best Books of the Year
Parents’ Choice Silver Award
Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year
Arizona Young Readers’ Master List
Maine Student Book Award Master List
“A fascinating glimpse into the colorful life and times of the 14th century. Orphaned Matilda, 13, has lived the good life in a manor where she was well educated by Father Leufredus. Things change drastically, however, when he abandons her, leaving her to serve as an assistant to a bonesetter in return for food and shelter. Matilda is expected to cook the meals, tend the fire, and generally assist Red Peg. And Peg has her hands full dealing with this self-righteous, pious child who snobbishly sprinkles Latin in her everyday speech and continuously brags about her ability to read and write. Peg, however, allows Matilda time to ponder her new role and teaches her, by example, that kindness and friendship go a long way toward lessening the harshness of life in this small English village. Matilda constantly prays for help, guidance, and deliverance. The saints, and this child knows many, respond with humor and sometimes sound advice. The theology espoused by Matilda is consistent with the time period and Father Leufredus has taught her well. She has no thoughts of her own-only the musing and learning of Father Leufredus. She stiffly withholds herself from all attempts at friendship and kindness, and she feels more and more alone. However, when she meets a kitchen maid who joyfully introduces her to the market square, her eyes slowly open to the world around her. Readers witness her spiritual and emotional growth as she blossoms from a self-centered “nincompoop” to a compassionate, competent assistant. Cushman’s character descriptions are spare, with each word carefully chosen to paint wonderful pictures. This humorous, frank look at life in the medical quarters in medieval times shows readers that love and compassion, laughter and companionship, are indeed the best medicine.” (School Library Journal, Kit Vaughan, Midlothian Middle School, VA)