BOOK REVIEWS

Brother Hugo and the Bear Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-05-25 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 8 user ratings
ISBN:0802854079
LANGUAGE:English

"I had never heard this story before, and it left me intrigued. Based on a note in an ancient manuscript, the story revolves around the experiences of a monk named Brother Hugo who loses a precious book to a bear. After painstakingly rewriting the book from another copy, he is tracked by a bear with a taste for paper or fine literature and tries to keep the creature at bay for a time by offering it other materials on which to munch. The ink and watercolor illustrations are filled with somber colors and emulate the pages in fine manuscripts. I'm not sure how much kid appeal this book will have, but it made me smile at the bear's persistence in following the monk. " said.

"I loved this book! I loved the way it was designed as an illuminated manuscript. The ink and watercolor illustrations are humorous, and it will be fun for children to look for the bear on some of the pages where it is pretty well hidden. The story is also humorous, as poor Brother Hugo has lost a library book to a bear's appetite, and must go fetch another copy from a distant monastery, and then he has to copy it, and then return it to the other monastery. And on his journey, that rascally bear follows him! I do hope this book is honored in some way. S. D. Schindler has illustrated many books, and I think this is one of his best. " said.

"Brother Hugo's library book has been eaten by a bear, so the Abbott has him replace it by obtaining a copy from a neighboring priory and then making a handwritten duplicate.

But the bear keeps hovering in the background, and he loves good writing!

This is an unusual choice for a picture book. But kids might enjoy learning about how books were produced by hand back in medieval times, and how monastic communities worked so hard to preserve these writings. It also has a nice lesson about cooperation, as Brother Hugo's fellow monks each pitch in to help him with his project.

The artist used medieval illumination techniques in his illustrations, which greatly enhance the presentation of this story.
" said.

"Read for the Mock Caldecott 2015.
I enjoyed the illuminated capitals, and the story was a good vessel for showing the elaborate methods of making an illuminated medieval manuscript. The historical note, glossary, author's and particularly the illustrator's notes added good value and interest. (I would like them to have included a photo of the original illustrated note Beebe found of "Hugo Pictor." But maybe they couldn't get permission.)
I found the language a little stilted (the jokingly medieval-esque text heavy-handed instead of musical).
I can happily suspend disbelief around the bear eating books, but no medieval book would have been loaned out so casually and with so little protection, and that part bugged me as not fitting within the posited world.
" said.

"A surprisingly lively tale of a monk, a bear, and a book. The language is charmingly old-fashioned, parts of the pictures are inspired by illuminated manuscripts (with plenty of bears). While it would be a great addition to a lesson on medieval monasteries or book-making, it's also a funny story on its own merits.

From when the Abbot discovers that the bear has eaten the letters of St. Augustine:

"Pray tell, Brother Hugo," said the Abbot, "how did a bear find our letters of St. Augustine?"

"They seemed to agree with him."

And the closing line, from the monks of the neighboring monastery:

"We are most right glad to see you, Brother Hugo," they whispered. "Your library book is due today."
" said.

"Primary source documents often have these little human moments that hint at a wider story. Beebe took this found moment and magnifies it into a charming tale. She did not take the easy way out, and chose to exit with a good punch line. Schindler did a good job of using the narrative elements known from the flat iconic church style, without needing to go all the way there. He offered depth with a hint at the flatness, and went to town instead with the decorative elements in and surrounding the capital letters.

All in all I enjoyed it because of how it treated this small slice of history, without the need to present the whole timeline. The end notes provided enough context to help me see how the artists made their decisions, and to appreciate the historical facts and background knowledge both of them brought in their research.
" said.

"This story takes place in the Middle Ages, and certainly is unlike typical children's books. It's hard to determine whether characters are relatable or universal since they are monks! The fact that this is a partially true story of how monks wrote manuscripts by hand might make this interesting to young children, and the visuals are very well done. There is a bear to find within the illustrations, which also could keep children engaged. It's obvious to see that if you were teaching about the Middle Ages or monks that this could be used for historical content (there is a glossary of terms and author and illustrator notes about the historical accuracy). However, not many elementary social studies classrooms teach this content. Although written for primary grades, I suppose this could be used with secondary students.

1/3
" said.

"On the first day of Lent, in medieval France, Brother Hugo confesses to his Abbot that he cannot return his library book because a bear ate it. The penance imposed on him is to travel to another monastery and borrow its copy of the same book, and make another copy to replace the one the bear ate, and get it done within forty days. But on the way there and back Brother Hugo is bothered by the same bear who has developed a taste for literature inscribed in bundles of tasty sheepskin.

To her gently humorous tale of Brother Hugo’s trials scholar Beebe adds a historical note about monasteries and manuscripts, a glossary, and a note about the inspirations for her tale. Schindler, borrowing many of the elements of medieval illuminated manuscripts for his illustrations, also tells how his artistic process in the twenty-first century differed and in some ways was the same as Brother Hugo’s would have been in the twelfth.

" said.

July 2018 New Book:

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