Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Doctor in Rags

Doctor in Rags, by Louise A. Vernon, opens with a sixteenth century girl named Gudryn Bruhn who is in desperate need of a doctor…especially with fears of the plague running strong. When a doctor in rags shows up to help, he is turned away in favor of a “city” doctor, a pompous parasite of a man who is little more than a fraud. When Gudryn’s condition worsens, her brother, Michael seeks out the doctor in rags, who heals her in a seemingly miraculous way. Michael soon discovers that the doctor in rags is the famed doctor Paracelsus. Meanwhile, Michael’s widowed mother, who now owns the husband’s castle estate, has secretly welcomed Hutterites to work in her fields and build a community because she feels they worship God in the right way. This act is illegal since the Hutterites do not attend the state church and, as such, are considered criminals. Not long after Gudryn’s healing, King Ferdinand takes the family’s land and puts the mother in jail because of their sympathy for the Hutterites. Michael and Gudryn seek refuge with the Hutterites. They end up in chains as well. However, it is while the children are in with the Hutterites that they learn about worship and hope, and Michael senses God’s true calling on his life.

What I Like: This historical fiction book provides a snapshot of the sixteenth century lifestyle of the Hutterites and Paracelsus. If you are studying the sixteenth century or the plague, the book might provide interesting insights for your students.

What I Dislike: To me, the story seemed a bit preachy in places and the plot somewhat weak and choppy. Also, although the title led me to believe the story would be mainly about Paracelsus, the doctor in rags, or perhaps the Hutterites since many suspected Paracelsus of being a Hutterite, the story actually focused more on Michael finding his true calling. Also, there was no bibliography to support the historical aspects of this book. It would have been a handy addition to the book.

Overall Rating: Good

Age Appeal: 9-12

Publisher Info: Herald Press, 2003 (although originally published in 1973; ISBN: 0-8361-1698-4; Paperback $8.99.

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