Cushman, K. (2014). Matilda Bone. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Matilda, having been raised by a clergyman, is sent to stay with a bonesetter when he is called to London on the king’s business. It is in this unlikely place in the midst of disease, death, and poverty, the likes of which she has never known in her privileged and pious life, Matilda truly begins to find herself, her purpose, and her connection with the divine as she learns to live a new life and a new profession.
Matilda Bone offers a unique look into a world foreign to children today—medieval England. Through colorful and, sometimes, comical characters, Cushman provides a realistic view of the dark, poor, and diseased setting. Matilda’s unique, privileged, and judgmental tone provides a narrative that is more relatable to modern readers, particularly when faced with the gruesome and appalling medical details contained in this book.
Though it is not a textbook about medieval medical practices, as Cushman herself states in her notes, it does provide ample detail about such practices. Both fascinating and gruesome, these help set the scene and educate the reader of their privilege when it comes to modern medical care.
From School Library Journal: “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.”
From Horn Book: The “fascinating information [in the afterword] is just as interesting as Matilda’s tale.”
-Use as an introduction to medieval medicine and have students do projects on the various medical professions shown in the book
-Pair with other medieval historical fiction for a deeper glimpse into the time period:
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
Longbow by Wayne Grant
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman