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BOOK SUMMARY

The Good Master by Kate Seredy, A Newberry Honor Book
Publisher
: The Viking Press, 1935
Number of pages
: 196

Summary:

Cousin Kate from Budapest comes to spend the summer on her uncle’s ranch on the Hungarian plains to recuperate from an illness. She arrives with a letter from her father, who explains that Kate is more than a delicate child in need of fresh country air; in fact, she needs a strong hand to help control her incredible, disobedient, headstrong ways. Her uncle, the "Good Master," who has a way with dealing with wild animals, is asked to help in this endeavor.

At first, Kate and her cousin Jancsi do not get along very well, but as the story develops and Kate is in admiration of her cousin’s skill with the horses, she is won over. Jancsi, too, learns to appreciate his cousin, "the screaming little monkey," as she grows in her docility and eagerness to learn about the ways of the country.

In the end, Kate’s father comes to visit and is so taken by the transformation in his daughter that he decides to stay in the country from whence he comes with his brother’s family.

Strong points:

  • Life in Hungary is beautifully portrayed in this book. The customs of the Hungarian country life are introduced to the reader in well-written texts that are plentiful for dictation or composition ideas. Lively illustrations complement the detailed scenes that are written (and illustrated) by the Newberry Award-winning author.
  • Each of the seasons are described and lived throughout the book, as well as the major feast days of Easter and Christmas, giving a Catholic sense to the story.
  • Hungarian legends and traditions are also interspersed in various chapters, giving the reader a taste of Hungarian culture.
  • The transformation of Kate throughout the story is appealing and heart-warming to the reader – adult and child alike —as the "little imp" learns to appreciate the wonders of a garden, real milk (not bought in bottles), and the joys of household work and feminine tasks.
  • A genuine appreciation for one’s homeland, the world of nature, and the little details of life are brought to the reader’s attention, as Kate discovers the joys of living, learning, and growing up in the country.
  • A strong, unified family life and community life – the cooperation and respect between the shepherds and Mr. Nagy, the "Good Master" —and the true goodness of the master are some of the important values brought out in the story.

Cautions:

Some individuals may be surprised to read that Kate splits her skirt and later, wears her cousin’s pants in order to ride a horse. These details should be well explained and dealt with.

Conclusion:

Children are delighted with this book, which is highly recommended. They are eager to read about the adventures of Kate and Jancsi on the ranch, their visits with the shepherds, the trip to the county fair and to the mill. The run-in with the gypsies also causes great anticipation and excites interest. The appreciation for a new country is developed, as the Hungarian life unfolds before the reader’s eye and imagination. Once this book has been completed, the children look forward to its sequel, The Singing Tree.

Note: The children who have enjoyed The Good Master will also enjoy Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (275 pages, Aladdin Newberry Medal). It is the adventures of an eleven-year old tomboy growing up on the Wisconsin frontier in the mid-nineteenth century. The story was inspired by the life of the author’s grandmother.