The Good Master



Book: The Good Master

Author and Illustrator: Kate Seredy

Publisher: Puffin Books, reprinted 1986

ISBN-13: 978-0140301335

ISBN-10: 014030133X

Related website(s): (publisher)

Language level: 1 (the euphemism “gee” is used once)

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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Seredy, Kate.  The Good Master (published in 1935 by Viking Press; republished in 1986 by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Putnam Inc., a division of The Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St., New York City, NY  10014).  Ten-year-old Jancsi Nagy lives with his father Marton, known as “the good master, his mother, and his dog Peti on his family’s large ranch in the Hungarian plains.  They have thousands of sheep, horses, cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, and even donkeys.  But Jancsi, who thinks of himself as quite a man and marked a stone to show that he “Can spit almost as far as Father,” is lonely and would give ten horses for a brother and even a donkey, though not a horse, for a sister.  Then he learns that his fifteen-year-old cousin Kate, daughter of his father’s brother Sandor, from Budapest has had the measles and is coming to recuperate during the summer on the ranch.  He pictures her as a weak, fragile city girl.

However, Kate is described by her own father as “impossible, incredible, disobedient, and headstrong.”  On the way home from picking her up at the train station, she pushes Jancsi out of the wagon and, when her uncle gets off to help him, drives away. Sandor hopes that Marton can do something with his motherless child.   As Kate has adventures learning to ride a horse, rounding up animals, going to the fair, falling in the river, and even being stolen by the gypsies, can she and Jancsi ever become friends?  Will she learn to be more respectful of others?  And what happens when it comes time for her to go home?  Hungarian-born author Kate Seredy (1899-1975), who won the Newbery Medal in 1938 with The White Stag, was given a Newbery Honor award in 1936 for The Good Master, in which she weaves Hungarian customs, holiday traditions, and folk tales into this nostalgic, heartwarming story of family closeness, along with her excellent black and white illustrations.

One reviewer, who says that “Many Americans don’t realize that ‘Gypsies’ are real. They are not mythical creatures. They are an ethnic group, actually called Roma,” calls the book racist, claiming that “this book portrays Roma (Gypsies) in a very stereotypical and derogatory way.”  Of course, the left considers anything as racist which does not fit in with its multicultural egalitarianism, even if a particular incident might reflect a real event.  In fact, the plot is based on her childhood summers in Hungary that Seredy spent with her father on the rural plains while he studied peasant life.  However, most other reviewers view it as I do, using terms like charming, delightful, wholesome, lovely, warm, and sweet.  Another noted that “the action is lively and dangerous but no one is ever seriously injured” and that Attila the Hun’s “military history is told in plain terms. Raiding and fighting and killing are mentioned, but not raping.”  The sequel to The Good Master is The Singing Tree, which continues the story of Kate and Jancsi, showing changes brought by World War I to the people and countryside, and was one of the 1940 Newbery Honors.

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