Monday, July 7, 2014
2015 Contenders: Brother Hugo and the Bear, by Katy Beebe
Katy Beebe's text is a joy to read. Its quasi-Chaucerian diction fits the setting without being overly difficult (especially given the glossary in the back). It also includes, as a natural part of the narrative, a clever introduction to medieval bookmaking. The story itself, which takes its inspiration from a brief passage in a letter written by Peter the Venerable, is winningly playful.
As a certified lit-nerd, I found Brother Hugo and the Bear impossible to resist. The Newbery committee may (and probably will) feel differently. We mentioned in last year's discussion of If You Want to See a Whale how hard it is for a picture book to gain Newbery recognition, and I don't think, alas, that Brother Hugo will cut through that resistance in this competitive publishing year.
The art, by S.D. Schindler, is a lovely pastiche of the illuminated manuscript tradition. It's possible that the Caldecott committee will take a liking to it. Whether or not that happens, I do hope that the folks handing out the two major awards for picture book text (the Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text and the Charlotte Zolotow Award) take a good look at Brother Hugo. I think they'll like what they see.
Published in April by Eerdmans