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Long ago, when hardly anyone knew how to read or write, people recited stories by heart. They sat around the hearth at night, telling of heroes and monsters, great battles fought, and fortunes made and lost. On feast days, they passed the harp around the room so that everyone could sing a poem. But when the harp reached Caedmon, his thoughts dried up. He opened his mouth and nothing at all came out. It was embarrassing. No wonder he hated poetry. A quiet man who loved tending his cows, Caedmon couldn't recite poetry because he thought he had no stories to tell. Then after one especially upsetting experience, Caedmon stormed home, fell asleep in the barn, and began to dream. That night, everything changed for Caedmon.
With jovial, heartwarming illustrations and beautifully illuminated letters, this tale is based on the true story of Caedmon, the seventh-century cowherd who became known as the first English poet. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Number of Pages: 32
Vendor: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Publication Date: 2006
Dimensions: 11.25 X 8.5 (inches)
Availability: In Stock
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-Ashby introduces a seventh-century man often called the first English poet. Caedmon was a cowherd who, ironically, detested poetry. He lived in an oral society and everyone else seemed capable of storytelling but him. When a tongue-tied Caedmon left a feast early and went to sleep with his cows, he dreamed of a man who commanded him to sing about what he knew. He opened his mouth and the words of his best-known poem, "Caedmon's Hymn," came out. When he awoke, he told his friend, who deemed it a miracle. He gave up his cows to live as a monk and to create songs. The text is clear and direct; mercifully, Ashby makes no attempt to re-create the Old English spoken in Caedmon's time (other than in a biographical note at the end). She creates a sympathetic protagonist, a man who is not ambitious but who, when the time is right, answers his calling. A modern audience might find this calling unusual, but they will certainly relate to the awkwardness and inadequacy he feels, and the satisfaction he takes from what is comfortable and familiar to him. Slavin's acrylic illustrations complement the story, sometimes re-creating Caedmon's world, sometimes re-creating the look of an ancient manuscript. This book will appeal to children who like historical fiction, but it will be too difficult for new readers to tackle on their own.-Kara Schaff Dean, Needham Public Library, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Though Caedmon is considered the first English poet, one wouldn't know it from his tongue-tied beginnings. So goes the legend presented in this biographical picture book. A humble cowherd on the grounds of a Yorkshire abbey, Caedmon was content to while away the hours with his bovine charges. Like most people of the time, Caedmon could not read or write ("Only the monks in the big abbey where Caedmon worked had books"), but, unlike many of his peers, he failed embarrassingly at reciting stories and poems (such as Beowulf) by heart. One night, however, he experiences a very special dream and finds himself filled with joy, wonder and the inspiration to compose and sing a beautiful hymn (eventually known as "Caedmon's Hymn") about Creation, something the Abbess and monks praise as a gift from God. His song prompts the Abbess to invite Caedmon to join the Abbey and to continue composing such songs of praise. Ashby's (Anne Frank: Young Diarist) accessible tale spends a bit too much time emphasizing Caedmon's shortcomings and ordinariness, but young readers will likely find the brief profile of a little-known figure intriguing. Using textured acrylics, Slavin (Something to Tell the Grandcows) crafts bucolic scenes of the British countryside and its often gruff-looking inhabitants. His various portraits of Caedmon feature realistic expressions ranging from uncomfortably pained to peaceful. A biographical note includes additional detail, including information about Caedmon's Old English. Ages 5-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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