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Children's LiteratureIn the Middle Ages, ordinary people who worked long hours could not devote much time to doing "the work of God." So the Catholic Church created a new career. Monks would pray and do God's work for everyone's benefit. Monks came from one of two groups: adult males rejecting their past lives and young boys brought to the monasteries by their parents. The boys received a thorough education to enable them to become the moral and intellectual elite of the monastery. A sample daily schedule for one monastery shows life was very structured. Much time was allotted to prayer and very little to sleep. A lot more than prayer was going on in monasteries. The monks often had to produce food for themselves and for the many visitors who used monasteries as modern day travelers use hotels. Monasteries also served as infirmaries and some monks specialized in healing arts. Many monks were scholars who copied and illuminated manuscripts. They also were artists, architects, and musicians. The artists created works in various media to beautify their chapels. Musicians experimented with music the monks chanted in the chapel and it was a monk who devised the first system for writing down music. Not all monks lived in monasteries. There were traveling monks, warrior monks, and hermit monks. This interesting book in "The Working Life" series describes the lives of monks with many examples and fascinating sidebars. It includes source notes, bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and an index. Most illustrations are from Medieval sources. 2004, Lucent Books, Ages 12 up.
—Janet Crane Barley