CAEDMON'S SONG by Ruth Ashby


Age Range: 6 - 8
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Ashby embroiders the medieval tale of England's first known poet but lightly, downplaying its religious elements without losing them entirely. Employed as a cowherd at an abbey in northern England, Caedmon "slept with cows, and he ate with cows. Cows were his life." But he "hated poetry," freezing whenever called upon to sing or share a tale. One night, after fleeing a feast in embarrassment, he dreams of a young man who tells him that there is poetry in everyone, and invites him to sing of what he knows. Out bursts the short lyric still known as "Caedmon's Hymn," quoted here in an atypical but reasonably accurate translation. Considered to have a holy gift, Caedmon goes on to become a monk, as well as an esteemed poet. Slavin puts the young cowherd and his associates—bovine and otherwise—in broad, serene landscapes, adding Celtic-patterned initials to the text for flavor. A long afterword fills in further detail, and also contains an Old English version of the song. A bit bland, all in all—but the episode is a significant one in our cultural history, and it's been many a year since any other version of it has been offered for young readers. (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0802852416
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Eerdmans