The Midwife's Apprentice is a Newbery Medal winning book by Karen Cushman. The main character is a homeless girl in medieval England. She has no name other than Brat. One day a midwife plucks her out of a dung heap Brat was sleeping in and given the name Beetle (as in dung beetle). Brat then goes on to learn about being a midwife by observing the midwife at work. She also learns about herself and her own self worth as she gains confidence in herself.
I thought this book was rich in historical fact as they relate to the daily details of life in medieval England. Certainly Beetle's journey is an extraordinary one - most homeless children would have had no hope of a better future at this time. The theme is echoed by other Newbery Medal winning books including A Single Shard.
The mood of the book is very depressing. Beetle thinks so little of herself that she has no initiative at all, not even to name herself. The character's journey is suppose to be uplifting but the world presented is so bleek it's hard to feel optimistic at the end. I felt the story meanders quite a bit. You don't get the sense of a traditional plot structure with rising action. This, combined with the mood of the book left me feeling less than satisfied.
This book is NOT RECOMMENDED