TILL YEAR'S GOOD END by W. Nikola-Lisa


A Calendar of Medieval Labors
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 7 & up
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 Nikola-Lisa (Tangletalk, p. 646, etc.) takes readers through an exhausting, contradictory year of peasant labor, ostensibly covering discrepancies in an author's note but creating instead a medieval muddle. Rhyming couplets ride on banners across each spread-- ``February/Hunting nets/knot till tight./Wooden bowls/I carve just right''--while paragraphs of explanatory text detail the labors of medieval peasants month by month. Manson's heavily outlined figures labor in relative good humor through the woodcut-like scenes, but don't compensate for the inaccuracies of the project. Before shifting the calendar of the ``medieval agricultural year'' from late September to January, the author introduces readers to the Books of Hours, which had ``the 365 feast days of the Church,'' a number that might have surprised medieval people and which will leave the picture-book set wondering; most scholars report fasting days to number fully half the days of the year. A preoccupation with feasting leads to oversimplification: Nikola-Lisa defines January as ``generally a time of feasting'' and rewards those cutting ripe hay in June with a daily feast, with no mention of autumn harvest celebrations. March finds the farmers engaged in what looks like premature spring planting, and mentions how a cereal crop ``was planted in autumn to be harvested in summer,'' which either belies all sensibility or needs follow-up explication. This is an ill-advised survey, floating blithely over the whole of medieval peasantry and never taking root in a specific geographic area. (Picture book. 7+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-689-80020-7
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997


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