This review is for the older kid, or the person who loves history and historical fiction. Although I'm reading this to my kids for part of their history homeschooling curriculum, it is a bit over their head. They are missing a lot, but they are catching some of it.
So while this children's book review might be for the older crowd, I wanted to share it because it is a gem. It won the Newberry award, and it is set up like a play. There are twenty-some 'voices' in this village that have speaking parts, so essentially an entire class could put this on and everyone would have a part. There are a few 'historical tidbit' pages interspersed throughout the pages, too, to give the reader background.
Every 'voice' is actually written in poetry. Readers can catch so much history from the richness of the language, the specific names used (many I'd never heard of before, and couldn't tell whether which gender they were for without help from the photo and the audio recording of the book), the descriptions of the jobs, and of course, the development of the relationships that these people shared living their everyday lives. We found out who was despised, how these people got by by tricking their lords (who they rented their property from), and how usually even one or two animals was the difference between shoes, a full belly, and a manageable livelihood.
I would highly recommend listening to the audio of this book while going through the poems, because each poem/person has a distinct voice and I feel the book has greater value when it's enhanced in this way. Listeners can focus on all the little details when they can just listen, instead of focusing on reading and understanding the old English (with puns) and correctly pronouncing the words.
I think this would be a great read-aloud for school curriculum when studying the middle ages, and it really can go along with history and language arts really well. While geared towards children say, 8 and above, my younger ones have been enjoying the story in bits and pieces (maybe 3 'voices') in the car with the audio reading to them.