Written by Katy Beebe
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler
Eerdmans’s Books for Young Readers 4/01/2014
Age 5 to 9 34 pages
“It befell that on the first day of Lent, Brother Hugo could not return his library book. The Abbot was most displeased. ‘Our house now lacks the comforting letters of St. Augustine, Brother Hugo. How did this happen?’ The precious book, it turns out, has been devoured by a bear, and so Hugo must replace it. Letter by letter and line by line the hapless monk crafts a new book, all the while being trailed by a hungry new friend who thinks that the words of St. Augustine are truly far sweeter than honey. Based loosely on a note found in a twelfth-century manuscript—and largely on the creative imaginings of the author—this humorous tale will surely delight readers who have acquired their own taste for books.”
“It befell that on the first day of Lent, Brother Hugo could not return his library book. ‘I shall have to inform the Abbot of this, Brother Hugo,’ said the librarian.”
Poor Brother Hugo. A bear has eaten his library book, an important book for the monastery. To replace the book, Brother Hugo must first travel to a neighboring monastery and borrow their copy of St. Augustine. Throughout Lent, Brother Hugo must then copy this book, by hand, for his own monastery. Brother Hugo and the Bear is a beautiful book. The text looks similar to what one would find in an old religious tome, as do the illustrations. Each paragraph begins with a large letter entwined with grape vines and leaves. As for the bear, with those long claws it is no wonder Brother Hugo did nothing when the bear snatched St. Augustine from his hands.
I like that all the monks help Brother Hugo prepare the things he needs to make the new book. It was not as easy as going to the stationary store, as it would be today.The monks had to make everything by hand. The illustrations show an offended goose walking away from the monks who now have a bird feather from which to fashion a pen. There is so much detail in Brother Hugo and the Bear one must take a second look after reading the story. I love illustrative detail and Brother Hugo and the Bear is loaded with details. I noticed a bear hiding behind the tree as Brother Hugo leaves the other monastery. Even the two dogs look in the direction of the tree and bark. Alas, that bear never follows Brother Hugo. (Maybe he is a scout for the book-eating bear.)
While Brother Hugo toils at his writing task, outside a noise begins to disturb the entire monastery.
“Brother Hugo, Brother Hugo,” the other monks cried, “what can be the meaning of that noise? It is like the rumbling of a great stomach or the whooshing of a fierce wind.”
The monks had the answer. It is the bear, hungry for another masterpiece. Once more, Brother Hugo’s friends help ensure the safe return of the original St. Augustine to the other monastery. On his return trip, Brother Hugo takes along a sack from his friends along with the original book. The contents of that sack should keep the bear at bay while Brother Hugo travels. The author uses the word “snuffling” to describe the noise made by the bear. I looked this up and found that the bear has a cold and is trying to breathe through a blocked nose. Poor Bear. I really like this word and hope kids take the time to look up its meaning.
I was surprised to learn the story is based on a true event. There was actually a bear who ate a book in the middle ages. How interesting. The backmatter goes into detail as to how the author, first-time children’s author Katy Beebe, came up with the story. The illustrator also has a page of notes in which he compares his process to the process used by the monks. It is all very interesting. The best part of the book is the twist at the end. Almost to the door of the other monastery, the bear has caught up to the monk and waits. Brother Hugo has run out of offerings. What he does next will momentarily shock the bear. And here lies the twist, which is funny on many levels.
Children will enjoy Brother Hugo’s story. I think they will love the watercolor and ink illustrations, which are gorgeous. The friendship and cooperation displayed by the other monks is a wonderful message for children. Curious children will love learning of the work involved in producing a book. While the monks do this all by hand, the ingredients are the same: one author, several pages of paper, lots of ink, a copier to make many books, and the cover and binding. Brother Hugo is the copier of his time. All the monks were copiers. They copied books to keep the words available, you know, in case a bear eats the original book.
BROTHER HUGO AND THE BEAR. Text copyright © 214 by Katy Beebe. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by S. D. Schindler. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Purchase Brother Hugo and the Bear at Amazon—B&N—Book Depository—Eerdmans—your local bookstore.
Learn more about Brother Hugo and the Bear HERE.
Meet the author, Katy Beebe, at her website: http://katybeebe.com/
Meet the illustrator, S. D. Schindler, at his website: http://sdschindlerbooks.com/
Find more books at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers website: http://www.eerdmans.com/youngreaders/
an Imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company http://www.eerdmans.com/
Also NEW in 2014 by S.D. Schindler
Another fabulous book! Wow! Book eating bears! Who would have thought? I’ll have to check this one out!
This sounds awesome! I will have to get it! 😀
It is “awesome.” Has wonderful twist at the end that I thought was hilarious. 🙂
Book eating happens. As a naughty dog, I know this is true. I wonder what the bear gets at the end after all the offerings are finished…. I hope he doesn’t eat the new book!
Love and licks,
You are one smart dog! Poor Brother Hugo!