Readers are given a cursory look at an important Roman Catholic priest, monk, and writer whose life was governed by prayer, a love of nature, and strong beliefs in peace and nonviolence.
The abecedary format is a weakness. While it presents such words as “cowl,” “hermitage,” “monastery,” “Trappist,” and “vespers,” all important to understanding Merton’s life, other word choices seem arbitrary, some letters have multiple words, and a few are not illustrated at all (N, O, and P have six words among them but not one picture). C is for both “cowl” and “community,” one emphasizing solitude, the other togetherness. The book also suffers from the absence of a timeline. An authors’ note states this is not a biography, but the details that are presented will confuse: E is for England, where Merton moved from France when he was 13. But F is for France, where Merton was born; he moved to the United States with his family before he was 2. Similarly, the entry for “hermitage” states that Merton was a hermit in his last three years of life. But Merton visited the Dalai Lama (D) shortly before Merton died in Thailand. The illustrations are enclosed in stained glass–like frames, each letter in a corner, and the backgrounds are segmented as if they were sections of windows. The palette is rather muted.
Not the best introduction to either Merton or the monastic life. (biographical note, note to parents and teachers, resources) (Informational picture book. 4-8)