The Midwife's Apprentice

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The Midwife's Apprentice
The Midwifes Apprentice.jpg
Author Karen Cushman
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's Historical Fiction
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
March 1991
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)
Pages 122 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN ISBN 0-613-00185-0
OCLC 173089913
LC Class PZ7.C962 Mi 1995

The Midwife's Apprentice is a children's novel by Karen Cushman. It tells of how a homeless girl becomes a midwife's apprentice—and establishes a name and a place in the world, and learns to hope and overcome failure. This novel won the John Newbery Medal in 1996.

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins with a girl, known simply as Brat, who is found in a dung heap by Jane, a village midwife. Seeing that Brat is willing to work, Jane takes her on as her apprentice, but does not voluntarily teach Beetle about midwifery for fear of competition. As the girl stays with the ill-tempered midwife, she matures and gains confidence. Several events help her overcome her troubled, forgotten past. She is mistaken for a girl named Alyce and adopts that name. She tames a cat and learns to care for it. She befriends a little boy who is homeless, as she once was, and finds him a name, Edward, a job and a home at the hall of a rich man. Jane is a proud and difficult woman. She is caring for a woman in labor with the help of Alyce when word comes that a more prosperous woman is also in labor. Jane abandons the new mother to Alyce's care to attend the richer woman. Alyce successfully delivers the baby, and the grateful parents pay her instead of Jane, which angers the midwife. Shortly after this, a woman's son comes to Alyce asking her specifically to deliver her baby, not Jane. This is a much more difficult birth, and she fails. Jane sweeps in and presides over the birth, and Alyce flees. She feels she is too stupid to be a midwife, so instead finds work in an inn. When a woman with a "stomach dragon" and her husband arrive at the inn, Alyce realizes that the woman is actually in labor and successfully delivers her child. This event boosts her confidence in her skills as a midwife, encouraging her to return to the village to once again become Jane's apprentice.


Preceded by
Walk Two Moons
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
The View from Saturday