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Seattle Children's Theatre Recommended Reading List

Production:  The Midwife's Apprentice
Synopsis by Deborah Lynn Frockt

In medieval England, an orphan girl makes her way alone in the world. She scrounges for food and seeks warmth in a dung heap when she wants to sleep. The only name she knows is "Brat". Renamed "Beetle" for the bugs that inhabit her sleeping quarters by Jane Sharp, the village midwife, the girl inadvertently becomes an apprentice in midwifery. Jane is only interested in Beetle for the inexpensive labor she can provide. Beetle, however, finds herself ever more interested in the process of bringing a life into the world.

Beetle’s days are filled with hard work, learning and the stray cat she adopts. When she travels to a fair to purchase necessities for Jane, Beetle becomes the proud owner of a comb, and for the first time in her life, turns her tangles into curls. She is then mistaken for Alyce, a girl who can read.

Inspired by such flattering confusion, Beetle renames herself in honor of the mysterious, literate Alyce. The newly named Alyce delivers her first baby in Jane’s absence; but, when expectant mothers in the village begin requesting Alyce’s presence at their births, not Jane’s, the midwife grows angry and jealous. When Alyce is unable to help a laboring woman deliver her child, she flees the village in despair over her failure.

She takes up residence as an inn girl. While there she secretly begins to learn to read and write, but her all too human desire to find contentment remains unfulfilled. When fate brings her face to face with her fears and her strengths, Alyce must decide which will prove the stronger.

Booklist prepared by Nicolas Berry and Gayle Richardson Seattle Public Library, Seattle Public Library. Books available from

For Children

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver; E. L. Konigsburg
From the three time Newbery Award-winning author, A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver visits Eleanor of Aquitaine in heaven while she waits for divine judgment to be passed on her second husband, King Henry II of England. This look at medieval royalty is a wonderful compliment to the exploration of commoners in The Midwife’s Apprentice.

Catherine, Called Birdy; Karen Cushman
In the same setting as The Midwife’s Apprentice, Karen Cushman’s first book is in the form of a diary. Catherine feels trapped by her father’s efforts to marry her off to the richest suitor. Humor abounds as this young heroine of the manor uses her wits to wrest control of her own future from her father.

The Making of a Knight: How Sir James Earned His Armor; Patricia O’Brian

Wise Child; Monica Furlong What Happened in Hamelin; Gloria Skurzynski
Lost Magic; Berthe Amos Seven Daughters and Seven Sons; Barbara Cohen
Draw! Medieval Fantasies; Damon J. Reinagle Harold the Herald: A Book about Heraldry; Dana Fradon
Illuminations; Jonathan Hunt The Forestwife; Theresa Tomlinson

For Parents and Educators

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls; Mary Pipher
Ophelia Speaks: Adolescent Girls Write About Their Search for Self; Sara Shandler
In 1994, psychologist Mary Pipher’s best-selling Reviving Ophelia examined female adolescence in contemporary America and the many challenges young women face growing-up. Sixteen years old when she first read Reviving Ophelia, Sara Shandler felt compelled to allow the teenage girls who had been the subject of Pipher’s book to speak candidly and directly; from more than eight hundred contributions by her peers, Shandler created Ophelia Speaks. Together or separately, these books provide a springboard for discussion and consideration of The Midwife’s Apprentice and its timely – and timeless – themes.

The Story of Robin Hood: From the First Ministrel Tellings, Ballads and May Games; Robert Leeson

Canterbury Tales; Barbara Cohen

Outrageous Women of the Middle Ages; Vicki Leon
Exploring the Past: The Middle Ages; Catherine Oakes Joan of Arc; Diane Stanley

For booklists from other productions of the Seattle Children's Theatre, click here.


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