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BROTHER HUGO AND THE BEAR by Katy Beebe Kirkus Star


by Katy Beebe ; illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: April 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5407-0
Publisher: Eerdmans

Prepare to be charmed by a bear who loves words—or at least loves to eat them.

Brother Hugo cannot return his book to the library of the monastery: A bear has consumed it. Enjoined to go to another priory to borrow a volume that he might copy to replace what the bear ate, he finds the bear follows him, snuffling hungrily. All his brother monks help him to prepare the parchment, make the inks, sew the pages and bind it shut. They even supply him with scraps of text to toss to the bear as Brother Hugo attempts to return the book he had copied. This does not work out, exactly. The rhythm of the text is antique but lucid and sweet, and the pictures, festooned with curlicues and decorated in shades of gold, gray and brown, echo the manuscript illuminations that inspired them. Rich backmatter gives all the historical background without detracting from the essential spark of the tale. The author, who holds a Ph.D. in medieval history, was inspired by a line from the 12th-century abbot Peter the Venerable about a precious volume eaten by a bear to make this lively story.

This accurate (if abbreviated) delineation of the process of medieval manuscript bookmaking shines thanks to the fey twist of ursine longing for the written word. (glossary, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)