The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane
Product Code: 91790
Binding Information: Hardback
Ages: 6 - 9
Availability: In stock
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Winner of the 2011 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award
In a monastery in the mountains of Mourne during the Middle Ages, one young monk struggled to focus on his task: copying the Bible and other scholarly books with plain brown ink made from wood bark in plain brown books in his plain brown robe at his plain brown desk. Brother Theophane was soon transferred from the scribe’s room and assigned to make the ink that the brothers used. With his natural curiosity, Theophane discovered that inks could be made from other plants besides the wood bark. Berries and leaves produced other beautiful colors. And soon, the books the monks made were illuminated with colors and drawings.
C.M. Millen’s charming story of a young monk who defied the discipline of the monastery and found his own way to express the beauty of the world will inspire young readers to explore their own world and find their own voices.
Andrea Wisnewski’s illustrations, inspired by the illuminated letters that the medieval monks created in books like the Book of Kells, bring to life the colors and beauty that surrounded Brother Theophane amidst the plain world of the monastery.
This book is good for your brain because:
History (middle ages), Art History (illuminated manuscripts), Character Development, Poetry, Physical Science
From the Author's Note:
Throughout the Middle Ages (500-1400 AD), monks from Ireland established monasteries throughout much of Europe and parts of the Middle East. In Ireland itself, the monks built tall tower monasteries in every part of the island, including the beautiful Mourne Mountains in the northeast.
In the scriptorium ("writing place") of the monastery, monks wrote on parchment or vellum, the carefully prepared skin of a calf. They made their dark ink in different ways: some monks boiled the bark of the "thorn tree" (possibly the hawthorn tree), some mixed soot with egg white and honey, and some gathered growths from oak trees and let them rot into a black liquid.
As the monks began to illustrate or "illuminate" their writings, they created colorful paints from various minerals, herbs, shrubs, trees, berries, insects, and even snails. Like Theophane, these early chemists experimented with ingredients to create pigments for their work. They soaked copper in vinegar, ground up dried beetles, and boiled leaves in urine in their search for brilliant, lasting colors. Their complicated and often toxic recipes resulted in colorful powders that could be mixed with egg white, honey, or other sticky liquids to make paint. As books became fancier, the illuminators also began decorating them with gold and other precious metals. The most famous of their illuminated manuscripts is the Book of Kells, which can be viewed at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
To me, what is most fascinating about these monks is what they did when they were bored--they doodled on leftover scraps of parchment, or in the margins of their books. What a human and totally understandable thing to do! They noticed the beauty outside, they complained about their hands hurting, they wrote poems about the monastery cat, and they even made fun of themselves. Thankfully, these anonymous poems have been saved and published in several books, including The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse, edited and translated by Thomas Kinsella.
Theophane's poems in The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane are based on poems originally scribbled by medieval monks in thier native Irish. Working from Mr. Kinsella's translations, I have adapted the monks' poems, combining lines from different verses and paraphrasing the language for modern reading.
Theophane (THEE-oh-fane), a name that honors God or "Theos," was a common name for monks. I thought the character of Theophane would be perfect to represent all the monks who got bored, caused a bit of mischief, and scribbled poems about their private thoughts. Thanks to him and his "brothers," we can read what they wrote to this day.
Download the cover image!
Download the discussion and activity guide!
For More Information:
To learn how to make your own hawthorn bark ink.
To experiment ....
Kirkus Reviews - June 15, 2010Brother Theophane copies manuscripts in his monastery in "the mountains of Mourne," but he also hides crumbs in his sleeve to sprinkle on the windowsill for the birds, and sometimes he gazes too long at the sun dancing on the pages before him. In simple rhyme, Millen conveys how, when woolgathering Theophane is banished to make ink, he finds berries, hazel wood, crocus and cabbage leaves to make many colors. The brown-garbed monks, turned from their brown inks to colors, renew their illuminations to reflect the many-hued world. The text includes a few verses in Theophane's voice, which are based on scraps of poems written by Irish monks of the Middle Ages. Wisnewski's gorgeous hand-colored prints are composed of strong black line and interlaced color and pattern. There are echoes of the Book of Kells and other Celtic illumination, but children will especially respond to the borders of apples and berries, the patterned stonework and the black-and-white cat that appears on almost every page.
The Fourth Musketeer - July 2, 2010In the Mourne mountains of Northern Ireland, a young monk is given the task of making ink for the manuscripts that are laboriously hand-copied in the monastery. Inspired by nature, he experiments with making vibrant colors from plants and flowers in the forest, allowing the monks to cover their pages with "heavenly hues." The simple story is told in a verse style that reminded me of Ludwig Bemelmans' classic Madeline stories. The book begins as follows: "In the mountains of Mourne, up twisted old bends, past blackberry brambles and ancient wood glens, there stood a tall tower-a circle of stone-where holy men lived, wearing simple brown books, eating simple brown bread, and saying their prayers by their simple brown beds." I almost expected the next part to talk about twelve little girls in two straight lines.
The text is interspersed with lovely, brief poems by the fictional Theophane; these poems are based on works originally written by medieval monks in the Irish language and adapted by Millen. Here is an example: "No great house is finer than my home within the wood. I give thanks for all that God has given for our good." Readers can tell which poems are written by Theophane since they are set in a different typeface and appear on antique-looking scraps of paper set into the illustrations.
The author also includes a useful afterword which provides background information on monasteries in Ireland and their importance in preserving many of the great works of antiquity. She also briefly describes the process of manuscript illumination, and provides further bibliography and websites for those readers interested in further exploring the topic.
While the text of this book is well-written, it is the illustrations for this book that are truly extraordinary. The artwork looks like woodcuts but is actually first hand-drawn on vellum and then cut out from the paper. This is Wisnewski's third picture book for children. In an interview, she describes her technique as follows: "When I have tweaked the sketch to my satisfaction," she says, "the design is transferred onto a black, clay-coated paper. Most of the design's details come out in the cutting process, for which I use a #11 X-acto blade and lots and lots of patience." When a cut is complete, the design is transferred to a magnesium plate, which is then printed on a press built by the artist's own husband. Finally, the artist uses watercolors to hand-color the print. This intricate process produces exquisitely detailed artwork which reflects the style of medieval manuscript illumination.
Highly recommended for school and public libraries, this book would also be terrific for home-schoolers since it could be a springboard for many other lessons.
The Book Faerie - July 15, 2010Charlesbridge provided my review copy. This is a beautiful picture book with illustrated endpapers. It is unpaginated.
Theophane is a young monk who, along with the other monks in the monastery, copies wise words in calligraphy into text in books. They use simple brown ink that is easy to make, they wear brown robes, they sit at brown desks, and Theophane spends more time looking at the window at the colors of nature then he does working. He loves the beauty of the world.
When he is assigned to make ink, he experiments with colors. And soon the books are full of color and no longer all boring brown!
The pictures in the book are vibrant and full of detail. The illustrations provide examples of the items mentioned in the text. The font used is similar to calligraphy and adds to the charm of the story.
At the end of the book, there is an Author's Note that gives you more history about monasteries and copying books. There is also reference to books and websites that show you how to make your hawthorn bark ink, experiment with extracting colors with plants, and tell you how illuminated manuscripts were made.
Not only is it a joy to read, your child can learn from it, too. I highly recommend this book.
Booklist - July 1, 2010In a small medieval Irish monastery, the monks quietly work side by side, copying and illuminating manuscripts in brown ink. Theophane, the youngest monk, is so easily distracted by the beauty of the world outside his window that he is given an outdoor task: boiling bark to make ink. Inspired by stains from blackberries, he begins to experiment, making colored inks from berries, leaves, roots, and twigs. Soon the monks are illuminating their manuscripts with the brilliant hues of nature. Words and pictures alike are infused with a sense of the monks' joy in their faith and work as well as Theophane's delight in the natural world. Written in rhythmic, rhyming, and near-rhyming verse, the simple story unfolds in a satisfying way, accompanied by short poems inspired by the writings of medieval Irish monks. The richly detailed illustrations were created by using a paper-cut design to print bold, black lines and brightening the pictures with watercolors. The book concludes with lists of recommended books and Internet sites as well as an author's note related to her research on medieval monasteries.
School Library Journal - August 1, 2010In the mountains of medieval northern Ireland, holy men live, work, and pray in plain gray stone buildings. There the monks are seen inking brown words and designs onto parchment sheets. The poetic text, written mostly in rhymed even lines with some touches of humor, tells the story of young Theophane, who reacts to the sights and sounds of nature by noting what he sees on torn parchment pieces, which appear on the illustrated pages of this book. He is reprimanded by the eldest brother and assigned the task of making brown ink. When his supply of bark dwindles, he goes to the woods to find more, returning with berries, flowers, roots, and leaves from which he makes colorful inks that he applies to his own doodles using brushes made from donkey-tail hairs. And so, Theophane illuminates both the lives of his brothers and their calligraphy. His own inspiration comes from the lush plants and bright flowers in the garden that he tends, "But the best yields of all,/for Theophane’s part,/were the peace in his mind/and the joy in his heart." Wisnewski's exquisitely detailed illustrations consist of a framed, bordered rectangle of text resembling a stained-glass panel set into or facing a colorful print. An author's note speaks of the monks from whose poems Millen's story was adapted. Using her short list of books and websites, youngsters can read some medieval monks' poems and learn about illumination, how to make a writing quill, extract colors from plants and leaves, or make a book. This gentle tale is a real treasure to read and behold.
Pink Me: Children's Books Reviewed for Grownups - July 26, 2010
What do you like best about illuminated manuscripts? Do you like following the twiny knotted ornament in the borders, challenging your eye to discover whether it's all one strand? Do you enjoy identifying the flowers and plants, so precisely rendered that botanists have used medieval manuscripts as evidence for geographic occurence? Do you glimpse the freezing monks in their freezing sweatshops, laboriously copying out texts just as if they were handstitching counterfeit Fendi handbags?
Or is it that the pages of 500-year-old manuscripts, so tightly closed for so long that they have forgotten light, still glow with color and life?
Or grim death, in some cases.
All those things are things that I love, when I walk through the galleries of the Walters Art Museum or the Morgan Library. Qu'rans, choir texts, devotionals the size of matchbooks an inch thick, breviaries, books of hours... all luxury items packed full of glitzy color in a world where manufactured color was itself a luxury. What is not to love?
This is why I was so eager to get my hands on The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane. It's one thing to show kids a batch of fancy painted books, but unless you can tell them the story of their manufacture, they're just... a batch of fancy painted books.
C.M. Millen has invented a scamp of an Irish monk named Theophane, curious about the world around him, weary of brown ink, eager to express himself instead of merely copying the words of others. Theophane is set to the task of boiling up brown ink, but when he runs out of bark and goes into the woods to collect more, he becomes inspired. He returns to the monastery with berries, cabbage, woad, crocus... natural substances known to have been used in the manufacture of pigments.
I can see Brother Theophane, like Dave the Potter, inspiring a lot of art projects this year. This book can extend in so many directions - we can use it to talk about history, creativity, religion, and science. Links to ink recipes (provided) can lead to ingredient lists that can inform nature and garden walks, or even trips to the grocery or hardware store. And have I even mentioned the art? I have not even mentioned the art!
Andrea Wisnewski's art in this book is masterful. Rich, detailed, appropriate, bursting with identifiable flora and fauna, done up in a palette of jewel colors. And not that most kids will get this, but some pages and border elements - who knows, maybe all of them - are mimics of compositions in actual medieval manuscripts. I am thinking the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Soane Hours. Yes, I'm showing off. I'm still paying for that education I'll have you know. But also, still reaping its benefits.
If you ever have a little time, spend a productive, marvelous hour nosing around in the medieval manuscripts that have been scanned, transcribed, presented online by people who love this stuff even more than I do. Support the foundations that fund them. Speak nicely to them when you pass them in the halls.
Readings - August 4, 2010
This beautiful picture book, illustrated from paper-cut prints and watercolours, is a celebration of Medieval Celtic illumination.
A young monk, Theophane, is sometimes restless during the long days bent over his work, and loves above all to be out walking in the open countryside. From nature, he learns to make inks – yellow from the crocus, blue from woad leaves, violet from bilberries – and early one morning his brother monks come in to find him asleep over his work table, their work glowing with new colour and life. Highly recommended. Medieval life, the joy of colour, and the beauty of nature all brought to life for ages six to adult.
Spirituality & Practice - August 10, 2010Welcome to a monastery in the mountains of Mourne, Ireland, during the Middle Ages. Theophane is a young monk who is out of step with the other members of this community of scribes who spend their long days hunched over the Bible and other religious books they are copying. He feeds the birds from crumbs left over from his meal and then writes:
"How lovely it is today!
The sunlight flickers and breaks
on the margin of my lined book,
while a wall of woodland overlooks
a blackbird singing from the willow —
a bird, a branch, a mass of yellow."
As a disciplinary measure, Theophane is transferred from the scribe's room to a dark room at the pit of the tower where ink is made from bark. Using plants and berries, he comes up with ink of many different colors. Soon the monks in the monastery are illuminating their books with bright paints.
Writer C. M. Millen says that when she visits the ruins of a medieval monastery, she asks herself: "Who walked on these stones? Who touched these walls?" Such queries formed the basis of this impressive book for children ages six through nine. Andrea Wisnewski's illustrations were inspired by the illuminated letters monks created in The Book of Kells and others. The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane pays tribute to the this young man's reverence for nature, his love of beauty, and his use of imagination to find his own true calling or path.
Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children - August 23, 2010Like other monks at the monastery, Brother Theophane sat at his desk copying text from scholarly materials onto brown parchment using brown ink. The work, all done by hand, proved tedious, and Theophane fought the boredom by feeding crumbs to the birds in the windowsill and scribbling poems on scraps of paper. His imaginative streak yielded greater returns when, asked to cook up more brown ink, he experimented with other ingredients from the woods and created a range of hues. The monks could henceforth enhance their copying work with colorful sketches and designs.
Based on actual practices of copying books during medieval times, this picture book has both a unique story and exuberant illustrations. It also presents an interesting economics lesson about how innovation can make people better off. Children will see how thinking in unconventional ways can lead to interesting outcomes even in unexpected places.
Doc Kirby at WTBF-AM/FM - September 16, 2010In the Middle Ages, monks copied the great books of Europe and turned them into artistic masterpieces as well as preserving the words. The most famous example is the Book of Kells of Ireland, magnificently illustrated Bibles. But other monks and scribes did the same kind of work. This is the story of one such scribbler, and we can call them that because they did also doodle in the margins and corners of the parchment or on scraps of leftover parchment. Theopane's poems in The Ink Garden of Brother Theopane are based on poems originally scribbled by medieval monks in their native Irish (Gaelic).
Our protagonist, a monk named Theophane, is bored with scribbling in the parchments, because the beautiful outside world beckons and enchants him. So he is sent to make the brown ink from bark, used by the monks. He began to search for other materials to make different colors, such as purple from blackberries, gold from buckhorn, blue from woad leaves, orange from weld blooms, green from cabbage leaves. The other monks like his illustrations in color so much that they begin to create them, too.
Paula Morrow - September 25, 2010The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane steps back to a pivotal point in the history of books and reading. During the Dark Ages, monks in medieval monasteries painstakingly copied the Bible and other scholarly works by hand, writing on parchment or vellum with inks made from boiled tree bark. Author Millen imagines a young monk who experiments with other natural materials to create the first brightly colored inks. The story is told in rhymed text. Interspersed with the author’s narrative are English translations of genuine medieval poems written by anonymous Irish scribes. Unfortunately the narrative itself is fraught with forced rhythm and awkward rhymes. The plot would have been better served by prose, which could also have created a pleasing contrast with the translated poems. The story itself, however, rises above the text, in a warm and enlightening exploration of the book as a work of art. Richly detailed illustrations created from papercut prints and hand-colored with watercolors suit this beautifully designed picture book. An author’s note offers additional information, a book list, and web sites where readers can learn to make plant-based inks and see how an illuminated manuscript is made. Children who enjoy reading about Brother Theophane may be inspired to create illustrated books of their own.
Bookends - October 15, 2010The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C.M. Millen tells a lovely story of how the discovery of colored ink just might have happened. Young Brother Theophane, an Irish monk, is often distracted from his copying by the lure of outdoor beauty. His exasperated teacher sends him outside to make more brown ink for the brothers’ monochrome work where Brother Theophane, after feasting on blackberries, is inspired to use plants to create colored inks. Illuminated manuscripts were born!
Heavenly hues/Now covered their pages/And filled their bright books/With colorful phrases.
OK - I admit to being a total book geek who knows about the Book of Kells, loves books about the middle ages and harbors a great admiration for those anonymous souls who kept learning alive in dark times. So I loved this book but I didn’t really expect our focus group to be interested. Wrong again! I should known better than to underestimate young readers. Our focus group loved this book, were fascinated by the illustrations and even twigged to the fact that the monastery cat shows up in most of the pages long before I did.
Arts & Activities - November 1, 2010This is a book written for children, ages 6-9. The story is set in a monastery in the mountains of Mourne, Ireland, duringthe Middle Ages (500-1400). Just imagine a time and place without our present-day technology.
Monasteries were the place where books were made. Monks in the monasteries translated the great written works of antiquity. In a Europe immersed in conflict (the "Dark Ages"), these are the efforts that kept the light of knowledge alive
This is the story of Brother Theophane, whose curiosity and creativity led to the making of new colored inks using berries and leaves. Theophane's poems in the book are based on poems originally scribbled by medieval monks. The author combined lines from different verses and paraphrased language for present-day reading.
How wonderful it would be to have students make their own inks using minerals, herbs, shrubs, berries and other forms from nature. Powders can be mixed with egg white, honey or other sticky liquids to make paint. With this experience, students can have rich appreciation of illuminated manuscripts.
Library Media Connection - November 1, 2010Brightly colored illustrations illuminate the story of Brother Theophane, a monk who lives in medieval Ireland. Brother Theophane is often bored with his work as a scribe and is soon sent to mix the brown ink as a punishment for being a distraction to the others. On a walk one day, Theophane is inspired to create new colors of ink using the beautiful colors of nature. Verses from poetry written by Irish monks are included and an author's note gives some background information on Medieval Irish Monks and the process of illustrating or "illuminating" books. The story is beautifully illustrated with papercut and watercolor artwork. Art teachers may enjoy using this book to introduce a unit on using nature to make paint colors, while history teachers may use it for a unit involving medieval history. This beautiful book is sure to appeal to both teachers and students alike.
Another day, another thought...or two - November 17, 2010Brother Theophane lives in a tall stone building in the mountains of Mourne with other holy men. They sit at their simple brown desks, quietly transcribing wise words on simple brown parchment using simple brown ink. But Brother Theophane isn’t like all the other monks. His distraction with the beauty of the world outside has him pulled from scribing duty to ink making. While gathering more bark for the monk’s brown ink, Brother Theophane discovers wild blackberries and the purple hue they leave on his fingers. Excited by this colourful discovery, Brother Theophane sets about the grounds looking for other plants: bright violet hues of billberries, orange from weld blooms, a strong shade of yellow from crocus. Soon the other monks aren’t sitting at their simple brown desks, quietly transcribing wise words on simple brown parchment using simple brown ink. Now their parchment is covered with heavenly hues, filling their bright books with colourful phrases.
I’ve always been fascinated by the old books and their ornate and colourful illustrations produced by these monks from the middle ages. This is a wonderful story about how colours were added to these books. According to the author’s note at the back of the book, the poem The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane is based on originally scribbles by medieval monks. Aside from the historical aspect of the story, the child-like character of Brother Theophane and his natural curiosity reminds me very much of kids in general. It’s a great illustration to kids that just because something has been done one way for many years, doesn’t mean it can never change. My two girls loved Brother Theophane’s character. My 3-year old loved his ability to talk to the birds and roll around in the grass. My 8-year old loved the story of the colours. I think her mind was conjuring up ways to try to get colour out of elements in our backyard.
The illustrations are more like etchings and add to the story, mimicking, in a way, the types of illustrations the Brothers were working on. The text was surrounded on each page by a detailed border. The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane is both a delight to read and look at. The book isn’t a Christmas story, however, the illustrations gave it a muted stained glass feel, which to me always have a Christmas feel. I wouldn’t classify The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane as a religious story either. Yes it talks about monks and the work they did, but if you appreciate books now, the story about the introduction of colour is one everyone can enjoy.
Polish American Journal - December 1, 2010This oversized children's book is a delight for all generations. The illustrations could compete with works of the monks of the middle ages, which is what the book is about.
Brother Theophane is one of the scribes, monks who made copies of the Bibles and other great literary works, all by hand. But Theophane daydreamed, watching the flight of the birds and other colorful objects. Instead, he was sent to make brown ink, made from tree bark. In the garden he discovered he could make colorful inks from nature that surrounded him. He made soft brushes from donkey's mane and began to dabble through the night. In the morning the monks discover pages of brightly illuminated drawings and borders on their scribed manuscripts. From then on their words were illuminated with the colorful inks Theophane created.
Great Kid Books - January 23, 2011During the Middle Ages, over 1,000 years ago, monks kept alive the joy of reading and skill of writing during bleak times of war, famine, and basic survival. Monks carefully transcribed great written works - the Bible and great literature from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Arabs. They made dark ink in a variety of ways, from bark, soot and oak galls. But then they discovered ways to make colorful ink, extracting pigments from minerals, herbs, plants, and even animals.
The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane is story of a young monk who, bored with simply making dark ink, starts to experiment with making colored paints for their writings. C.M. Millen has created a sweet story in rhyming verse that makes it accessible to young listeners. The adult in me wanted more of the history, and so I enjoyed reading her author's note at the end, but my young audience (1st, 3rd and 4th graders) really enjoyed the story aspect, with the rhythm and rhyming of the verse. Best of all, we all agreed, was Andrea Wisnewski's artwork.
Andrea Wisnewski, inspired by the illuminated letters that the medieval monks created in books like the Book of Kells, created the artwork by first drawing each design and cutting it from dark paper. Then she has the papercut design made into a block plate which she prints on a handmade press. Finally, she adds color to the print with watercolor paint.
After reading this story, I had a gaggle of children hunting through the neighborhood for the perfect ingredients for their own potions. They made dark purple ink from berries, light yellow from flowers, and tried to make a green from leaves and grasses.
Semicolon - February 28, 2011What a lovely book celebrating the art and the poetry of the humble medieval monks who gave us beautiful illuminated manuscripts of the Bible and other Christian texts and also scribbled little bits of phlosophy and poetry in the margins and on spare bits of parchment. Mr. Millen has taken these monkish poems and used them as inspiration for a story poem about a monk named Brother Theophane who “would stop with his copying chore to write all about the beauty outdoors” and who “tended his field, harvesting plants for the colors they yield.” Andrea Wisnewski is a gardener herself, and it shows in her illustrations which combine a love for nature and for colorful illumination with a Celtic medieval feel to it. I could spend a great deal of time looking at the illuminated lettering and the vines and plants entwined through the margins of the pictures. Books like this one are what convince me that the ebook revolution has a ways yet to go before it will be an improvement on the old-fashioned picture book. Whoever invented the book with pages did a fine thing. The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane would be a good addition to any homeschool study of the Middle Ages and a brilliant entryway into discussion of Irish monks, monastery life, manuscript illumination, and medieval poetry.
The Spring Book Review, Kutztown University - April 12, 2011“…Holy men lived, wearing simple brown robes, filling simple brown books, eating simple brown bread, and saying their prayers by their simple brown beds. They all looked alike, they all seemed the same, except for the brother they called Theophane.” Theophane can’t help but notice the beautiful world around him as he copies the manuscripts. He is distracted by nature and is punished by being told to make the ink for the other monks. He turns his punishment into a boon when he discovers he can make beautiful colored inks from herbs and berries. Soon the entire monastery is making beautiful illuminated texts!
The beautiful illustrations in this book are reminiscent of the illuminated texts of the middle ages that Brother Theophane is supposed to be making. The author really did her research and the last couple of pages expands upon the history of the Irish monks and even suggests other places to find more information on monks and their work. Every person I’ve shown this book to has commented on the beautiful illustrations. It is a 2011 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award winner.
Yellow Brick Road - May 1, 2011A daydreamer, Brother Theophane is banished from the copying room where the other monks copy religious texts. But Theophane discovers a way to formulate colorful inks that make books a work of art. The book includes real poetry that medieval monks scribbled in the margins of manuscripts and information about "illuminated manuscripts and the monks who preserved knowledge during the Middle Ages."
Ohioana Quarterly - October 20, 2011Millen’s picture book, The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane, the main character Brother Theophane is tired of the same old color, brown. Everything in his life is brown from simple brown robes, to simple brown books, to simple brown bread, to simple brown beds. In the monastery his world is brown, and he feels like everything looks alike. Outside the monastery, it is very colorful. All that color gives Brother Theophane an idea. Brother Theophane is different from all the others, because he enjoys color and likes to add life and brightness to things. He is able to do this at the end of the book, but you have to read the book to discover how he does this.
Millen uses rhyme to tell this tale about an Irish monk who finds a way to add color to his illustrations for books like the Bible. Wisnewski’s illustrations add to the story making it come alive. Her illustrations imitate the drawing style of early Irish manuscripts. It reminded us of stained glass, with the words boxed in by drawings and then a full page illustration on the side to go with the text. Wisnewksi used an old-fashioned style of printing by carving the picture into a stamp and then printing the image.
This is a great book for children and parents to read together. It teaches them about the early Irish traditions of the monks who drew pictures to help tell stories.