Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Module 2: The Good Master by Kate Seredy

The Good Master is set in Hungary in the early part of the twentieth century. Our central character, Jancsi lives on a horse ranch with his mother and father. Early in the story, Jancsi learns that his cousin from Budapest will be coming to live on his family’s ranch because she is frail from getting over the measles. Jansci’s family quickly realizes that Kate was sent to the ranch because she is overly mischievous and needs the strong hand of Jancsi’s father Marton. Kate quickly finds that her antics will not fly under Marton’s roof and begins to change her ways. While on the ranch Kate discovers the pleasures of rural life. She learns to garden, ride horses and care for poultry. Kate and Jancsi go on many adventures in and around the ranch and encounter many old wise characters who tell them stories, each with an obvious moral. As time passes on the ranch, Kate becomes close to Jancsi’s family, but misses her father dearly. As Christmas nears, Marton arranges for Kate’s father to visit. When he arrives at the ranch, Kate, Jancsi and Marton are able to convince Kate’s father that he should join them in country life.

Overall I liked The Good Master. Still, I feel like the book has its problems. The lessons of the book are presented in a contrived format. Instead of allowing the characters to learn these lessons in an organic way, each moral is wrapped in a story told by a sage wise man. The saving grace of the book is the ending. Kate and Jancsi are visited by Mikulas (Santa Clause). Mikulas turns out to be Kate’s father in costume. Kate’s father see’s how happy she is with country life and decides that they should live on the family ranch permanently. The ending to The Good Master is touching, but the book itself seems out of date with most child readers.

This story takes place in feudal, Czarist Hungary, pre-revolution and World War 1. Kate's mother dies, she's out of control, and her teacher father sends her from Budapest to live with his rancher and feudal lord brother. Kate learns about the country's cultural history and many of the folk stories passed down orally through the generations. She becomes a well-behaved girl and part of the family. There is a sequel, The Singing Tree, which follows the family through the war years, with Russian prisoners of war staying on the farm and helping and becoming friends, and Kate's father is lost (then found). These are marvelous books for any age, a view of a country's past that is no longer there.

Suggested Activities
I would include this book in a display about Hungary. I would include travel books, CDs with traditional Hungarian music, cook books, and The Singing Tree, the sequel to The Good Master.

Seredy, K. (1935). The Good Master. New York: Viking Press, 1935. ISBN: 067034592X.

Halperin, L. (2008) [Review of the book The Good Master by Kate Seredy] Retrieved from

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