Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe Book Review

Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 4, 2014

Brother Hugo is unable to return his library book -- the letters of St. Augustine -- because a bear at it. Because of the bear's appetite, Brother Hugo is instructed to borrow another monastaery's copy and create a replacement by hand. However, once a bear gets a taste of a good book, it is difficult to quit and Brother Hugo barely makes it to the monastery and back without losing another copy of the precious book. Brother Hugo then sets about on the painstaking task of creating a twelfth-century manuscript using sheep skin, hand lettering, and careful transcription until he has a perfect copy.

As someone who works in book production, although clearly the 21st century type, I am fascinated by the construction of books. What then is more exciting than a picture book with a fantastic story that discusses early forms of writing, the creation of books, and how an inter-library system worked in monasteries. I was deeply saddened by Brother Hugo's lack of resolve in the face of a bear. Believe me, if I worked that hard on a book and it was one of the very few copies in the world, I promise I would not let a bear get anywhere near it no matter how letter hungry he is. The illustrations hearken back to medieval letter work, but have a nice modern flair as well.