New in 2010 was a wonderful, living picture book called Brother William’s Year: A Monk at Westminster Abbey written and illustrated by Jan Pancheri. This was definitely our Libraray pick of the week (Maybe even month? Quarter? Pick of the year seems lofty but it would definitely be in contention for that prize!) Pancheri was the lead gardener of Westminster Abbey and has used this position to do research into “the way things used to be,” i.e., when the abbey was filled with Benedictine Monks before the property was stolen from the Church.
The book is a look at what medieval abbey life would’ve looked like each month of the year and since it’s January, the time is ripe for a picture book overview of seasonal life. Each page includes what’s happening in the gardens, which were of course the sustenance for the monks back then, not the pristine, manicured displays they are now. There are a couple recipes (Leek Soup!) and fun little tidbits to delight… like the building of a snow-monk. I want to build a snow monk this year!
I’m a fan of the book for a few reasons:
1-It’s historically accurate.
2-It’s reverent to the spiritual life without being a book meant to proselytize, thereby making it accessible to people of all faiths.
3- The art is just as lovely as the text.
4- I find the footnotes in the back very interesting.