Cover image for Brother Hugo and the bear
Brother Hugo and the bear
Beebe, Katy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Michigan : Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 30 cm
After painstakingly handcrafting a replacement copy of a library book, a medieval monk tries to protect it from a hungry bear with a taste for literature. Includes historical note on illuminated manuscripts.
General Note:
Loosely based on a note found in a twelfth-century manuscript.
Reading Level:
NC 1000 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 5.2 0.5 165428.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books

On Order



A clever tale that will charm book lovers

Brother Hugo can't return his library book -- the letters of St. Augustine -- because, it turns out, the precious book has been devoured by a bear! Instructed by the abbot to borrow another monastery's copy and create a replacement, the hapless monk painstakingly crafts a new book, copying it letter by letter and line by line. But when he sets off to return the borrowed copy, he finds himself trailed by his hungry new friend. Once a bear has a taste of letters, it appears, he's rarely satisfied!

Brother Hugo and the Bear is loosely based on a note found in a twelfth-century manuscript -- and largely on the creative imaginings of author Katy Beebe. Lavishly illustrated by S. D. Schindler in the style of medieval manuscripts, this humorous tale is sure to delight readers who have acquired their own taste for books.

Author Notes

Katy Beebe teaches history at University of Texas at Arlington and has a doctorate in Medieval History from the University of Oxford. She spent many years studying the kinds of medieval manuscripts that Brother Hugo might have made.

S.D. Schindler is an award-winning illustrator of many bestselling picture books, including  Come to the Castle!  (Flash Point),  The Story of Salt  (Putnam Juvenile), and  Big Pumpkin  (Aladdin). He lives in Pennsylvania.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Set in a medieval monastery, Beebe's story opens with Brother Hugo explaining that he cannot return his library book, because it was eaten by a bear. The abbot bids him to borrow a copy of the same book from the neighboring Grande Chartreuse monastery, make an illuminated reproduction, and then return the borrowed volume. With help from the other monks, Brother Hugo does as he is told, but on his return trip to Grande Chartreuse, he encounters the same bear, who eats the borrowed book, as well. Loosely based on a note in a twelfth-century manuscript, the story has a few elements, such as the final sentence (Your library book is due today), that sound more modern than medieval. Still, the gentle, amusing story offers a bit of adventure, as well as tells how medieval monks went about making their treasured books. Schindler's beautiful ink-and-watercolor illustrations use decorative elements reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts to suggest the period, while portraying the characters as distinct individuals with expressive faces, and landscapes that sometimes resemble those in medieval books of hours. A historical note and glossary conclude this handsome picture book with an unusual setting.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-According to detailed back matter, the author learned of a documented incident involving a book-eating bear and the subsequent letter written by Peter the Venerable to a neighboring French monastery requesting St. Augustine's letters. That research inspired this story that combines suspense, humor, and information in a handsome, entertaining package. As the tale begins, Brother Hugo confesses his unfortunate loss to the abbot, who asks: "Pray tell, . how did a bear find our letters of St. Augustine?" Hugo replies ruefully, "They seemed to agree with him." His penance is to journey to Chartreuse to borrow the manuscript and copy it. Beebe's language creates an Old World flavor, as Hugo "sorely sighed and sorrowed in his heart" and "sped full mightily." When he begins to copy the borrowed book, the enormity of the task dawns on him, and the brothers offer assistance. Readers then obtain a clear overview of medieval bookmaking, from the stretching and scraping of sheepskin to the laborious copying and binding. Schindler's elegant compositions make full use of each spread. Text wraps around delicate ink and watercolor brooks and grazing sheep, while illuminated letters decorate and amuse. Arches and columns cleverly frame the monk, creating sequential panels to portray his painstaking progress on what becomes, alas, another "choice morsel" for the insatiable beast. Combine this with C. M. Millen's The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane (Charlesbridge, 2010) and Jan Pancheri's Brother William's Year (Frances Lincoln, 2010) for further insights into how monasteries nourish bodies and souls.-Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.