Friday, July 14, 2017

Hard Work and Family: The Good Master


by Kate Seredy

Cousin Kate, weak and unruly, breathlessly arrives at the smoothly run far of her uncle, the Good Master. She learns from her aunt, uncle, and cousin Jancsi how to care for plants and animals on the farm and control her own behavior. She grows strong and healthy surrounded by a beautiful land, beautifully described.
From the distant, shadowy line where earth and sky merged together, golden shafts of light rose, piercing the white mist over the plains. A few lingering stars flickered and were drowned in the brightening sky. Then slowly, majestically, the red sun rose above the horizon. It seemed to hover for a second, as if reluctant to tear itself away from the earth; then it came into full view, painting everything to the smallest seedling in Kate's garden with its glorious light. The full-throated warble of a robin rose from the apple tree, heralding the new day.
The children are frequently visiting throughout the Hungarian countryside and often hear stories of myth and history.  The illustrations are simply delightful (and I believe are the same in the book I have and the paperback linked on Amazon).

There were a few stories of gypsies that had me cringing a little. I never know how much of what's told of gypsies in older books is prejudice and how much is based on actual behavior. I may talk with my children about that a little when we get to those parts. There are also a few parts where the children tease each other, speaking disparagingly of "sissy" behavior. We don't talk that way around here, but I'm not going to let it stop us from reading and enjoying the book.

In one chapter, the children meet Mikulas (St. Nicholas) at the train station and help him distribute gifts to the children in the village. (He turns out to be Kate's father, dressed in red and wearing a fake white beard.) If you have little ones who still believe Santa Claus or St. Nicholas leave gifts, this episode might raise questions in their minds. I'm pretty sure all of our children know we are the ones who leave gifts so I'm going to risk it.
"You know who the real Mikulas is? He is a different person to every child. He is always the one who loves you best in the world. We left beautiful gifts for the village children, but each of them will find some other gift, too, tomorrow morning. Perhaps it will be a very, very simple little gift, but it will be precious to those children because it was given with the greatest love."
I have a lovely hardcover copy printed in 1967. I bought it used on a whim because I recognized the name of the author and am delighted it appears as a recommended supplemental book for World War I in the Level 4 history plans at Mater Amabilis. The Good Master takes place before World War I. I intend to read it aloud to all the children: eighth grade, fifth grade, third grade, and first grade.

The sequel, The Singing Tree, is also recommended, which takes place during World War I. I just found a used copy of that on Cathswap so we may read that one as well.

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