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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Making a Unique Book

One of the joys in my life is watching my friends' books transform from idea to draft to final copy...and come to the hands of readers. Brother Hugo in Katy Beebe's new book Brother Hugo and the Bear has a slightly different path involving the creation of a book. When the copy of St. Augustine's letters is due at the abbey's library, he must confess to the Abbot that the words were "as sweet as honey" to him, they were much sweeter to the bear who devoured them. As penance, he must make the trek to the Grand Chartreuse, borrow their copy, and recreate a book for his own abbey, all before the season of Lent has passed.

Without giving away too much of the plot here, readers should expect humor and helpfulness as the beautifully named brothers of the abbey (Caedon, Aelred, Hildebert, Eadmer, Anselm and others) assist their friend in the process. Supplies are generously shared, and Brother Hugo works with dedication to copy the book perfectly, all the while hearing the rumblings of a bear's hunger for words. His return trip to the Grand Chartreuse offers readers a surprise. 

S. D. Schindler's illustrator's note explains the process of creating a book in the Middle Ages, and an historical note tells about the origin of manuscripts, as well as the scrap of paper that served as the idea for this book. 

The book is a wonderful blend of text and artwork that brings the mood of the monastery and Brother Hugo's dilemma to readers. It is one of those books I have resisted returning to the library because I want to keep holding it and gazing at the intricate artwork. When I return it, I will imagine a bear, rumbling behind me, longing for its sweet words.