Catherine Called Birdy Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The following questions can help to guide your middle school students through a class discussion about their thoughts and reactions to the novel 'Catherine, Called Birdy'.

Catherine, Called Birdy

Catherine, Called Birdy is a historical-fiction novel for children, written by American author Karen Cushman. The story follows a rebellious girl through her daily life in 13th-century England, providing students a chance to glimpse life in this time through the protagonist's eyes. The following questions are designed to help guide your students through a class discussion on this book, its plot, and it themes.

Questions about Plot and Characters

  • In one sentence, can you describe Catherine, Called Birdy? What is this story about?
  • Who is Catherine? How are we introduced to her? What were your first impressions of Birdy? How would you describe this character and her personality?
  • How is this story told? What format is used? What did you think about this? Have you ever seen a story written like a diary? How does this help us to understand Birdy?
  • What is Birdy's life like? How does she describe it? What passages stood out the most to you as described her daily life? What do you think it would be like to live in medieval England? What parts of this life would you enjoy? What would the challenges be?
  • How is Birdy's life defined by the fact that she is a girl? Where do girls fit in this society? What is expected of them? Where do we see evidence of this in the story? How does Birdy respond?
  • What does Birdy want? How do we know? Why is it hard for her to achieve these things? What does her betrothal represent to her? What other events or characters in this story have shaped her ideas about her upcoming marriage or her future as a woman in this society?
  • What happens to Birdy when she runs away? What is she hoping to find? What does she find instead? How does this impact her?
  • What does Shaggy Beard's death represent to Birdy? How does she respond to it? How does the novel end? What did you think about this ending? What do you think Birdy's life will be like from here?

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