cover image Brother Hugo and the Bear

Brother Hugo and the Bear

Katy Beebe, illus. by S.D. Schindler. Eerdmans, $17 (34p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5407-0

“It befell that on the first day of Lent, Brother Hugo could not return his library book.” In a medieval twist on the homework-eating dog, Brother Hugo confesses to his abbot that a bear has eaten his borrowed copy of St. Augustine’s letters. The abbot instructs Brother Hugo to retrieve a copy of the book from a neighboring monastery and create a new version—hand-written, illuminated, and bound. This process forms the heart of debut author Beebe’s how-it’s-done story as Hugo’s fellow monks aid in his efforts. The capital letters of each paragraph are meticulously illuminated in ink and wash by Schindler (Spike and Ike Take a Hike) with small vignettes and ornaments. Beebe’s period prose is believable and at times funny (Brother Hugo “knew that once a bear has a taste of letters, his love of books grows much the more”), and Schindler’s Bruegelesque landscapes deepen the medieval atmosphere. Depending on readers’ temperaments, they’ll either laugh or despair at the ending, in which all of Hugo’s hard work comes to naught. Ages 5–9. (Apr.)