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