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The executioner's daughter

by Laura E. Williams


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Gr 6-8-A historical novel set in England in 1450. Gentle, sensitive Lily has the misfortune to be the daughter of the village executioner. The other children taunt and torment her and her only friends are the wounded forest animals that she nurses back to health. When her mother dies, Lily knows that it is her destiny to replace her as the executioner's assistant. Suddenly the ugliness from which she has been shielded all her life becomes all too real. She faces the difficult choice of remaining loyal to her loving but remote father or leaving to try to make a better life for herself. Ironies abound in the deceptively simple story. Lily's parents also earn a living by selling herbs and are expert healers. Her father is reviled by the citizens of the town, but they turn out in droves to watch him work. He is viewed by all as a brute, yet he must drink heavily in order to carry out his duties. Lily is a strong, insightful child, wise beyond her years yet still vulnerable. This well-written story is an excellent vehicle for demonstrating the harsh realities of life in the Middle Ages. It can be used effectively with Karen Cushman's Catherine Called Birdy (1994) and The Midwife's Apprentice (1995, both Clarion) and serves as a curriculum link as well as a pleasurable read. A brief afterword provides needed historical background.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC

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