PANGUR BAN by Mary Stolz


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Inappropriately for a ninth-century Irish farmer's son, Cormac burns to read and write, study and paint. With his mother's connivance, he occasionally sneaks away with his cat (Pangur Ban) to sketch and daydream; though he'd like to enter the local monastery, he feels no vocation. But his father, knowing he'll never make a farmer, persuades the abbot to accept him. Seventeen years later, Cormac has become a peerless artist and illuminator, though he still prays for his call. When the dreaded Vikings return after a long period of peace, he carefully hides his precious, incomplete Life of St. Patrick, together with a beautifully illustrated poem to his cat. Centuries later, they are discovered by a young monk, Fergus, who successfully battles the temptation to keep them--and learns that art may be created by anyone, grand or humble. Some of the attitudes seem a bit too modern in the early part of the story (""Girls can't do things that boys can,"" says Cormac to his sister, who replies, ""Why not?""), but Stolz's picture of medieval Irish life has an authentic feel, and her characters are well drawn. Readers who found the manuscript's journey in Kushner's A Book Dragon (p. 695/C-113) too lengthy may enjoy this shorter, livelier tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Harper & Row