Saint Francis Sings to Brother Sun: A Celebration of His Kinship with Nature

Overview

From Karen Pandell and Bijou Le Tord comes an ode to Saint Francis's connection with nature that transcends culture and faith — an inspiration for all time and all people.

Sing praises to all Your creatures,
And above all to Brother Sun,
Who gives us the day as He enlightens us.
-From Saint Francis's "The Canticle of Brother Sun"

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Overview

From Karen Pandell and Bijou Le Tord comes an ode to Saint Francis's connection with nature that transcends culture and faith — an inspiration for all time and all people.

Sing praises to all Your creatures,
And above all to Brother Sun,
Who gives us the day as He enlightens us.
-From Saint Francis's "The Canticle of Brother Sun"

More than eight hundred years ago, a once-privileged young man cast off his worldly possessions to live an austere life amid nature, where his gentleness and compassionate words drew even wild creatures to his feet. The now-legendary Saint Francis of Assisi receives a fitting tribute in this elegant, inviting volume, in which stanzas of the "Canticle of Brother Sun" are interwoven with nature tales about the man who composed this sacred song and followed by an author's note, biography, bibliography, and source notes. Illustrated by Bijou Le Tord in delicate, graceful charcoal drawings highlighted with gold, reflecting both the saint's simplicity and his joyous spirit, this beautiful compilation by Karen Pandell makes it clear that the songs and stories of Saint Francis are indeed the heritage of every child.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Pandell's (I Love You Baby, From Head to Toe!) thoughtful, well-rounded portrait of this beloved saint will likely prove a treasure for many a family and church library. The volume intersperses stanzas of the sacred song "The Canticle of Brother Sun," perhaps Francis's best-known composition, with brief, thematically-related stories recounting Francis's life and works in early 13th-century Italy. The striking design guides readers. For example, the spread containing the verse that begins "Sing praises to all Your creatures," and a full-color painting is followed by the tales "Love for Brother Sun" (noting that Francis thought of the sun as a living thing) and "The Falcon at the Hermitage." Le Tord (A Bird or Two) distinguishes each of the pages that contains one of the tales with a multicolored border on its farthest edge and artwork that blends charcoal gray-black loose lines and swatches of gold paint. Her mixed-media illustrations, a combination of spot art and full-page portraits, take on an appropriately rough-hewn appearance and clearly celebrate Francis's love of the environment. A note for readers, a biography of Francis, and a bibliography all serve as enlightening and helpful resources here as well. Ages 8-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The author has provided us with an elegant rendition of stories interwoven with sections of The Canticle of Brother Sun written by Saint Francis. There are familiar stories of Saint Francis' encounter with God's creatures, but the author has selected some of the lesser known stories. I particularly appreciate St. Francis' interaction with birds. They are so free to go where they want, when they want, eat what pleases them, and sleep where they chose. St. Francis preached and blessed the birds as he walked among them. A falcon became his friend. He rescued a female dove who nested and raised her young near St. Francis and the brothers. When St. Francis died, the larks circled over head and sang sweetly, praising him. There are many encounters with other animals: the wolf, lamb, bees, hare, worm, and fish. The illustrations in charcoal accented in gold, give the stories special beauty. 2005, Candlewick Press, Ages 7 to 11.
—Leila Toledo
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-The book opens with an author's note giving background about Saint Francis's poem "The Canticle of Brother Sun," followed by a summary of the man's life. This six-page section seems to be aimed more at adults than children. The rest of the book consists of brief vignettes from the saint's life, accompanied by an illustration. The author has used medieval biographies as sources and retold the stories in accessible language for modern readers. Verses from the poem introduce each section and the entire poem is reproduced at the end of the book. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s Saint Francis of Assisi (Hyperion, 2005), illustrated by Dennis Nolan, is a straightforward picture-book biography and Richard Egielski's Saint Francis and the Wolf (HarperCollins, 2005). focuses on one episode from the man's life. Pandell concentrates more on Francis's spiritual nature-how he would preach to birds or talk to a cicada or a hare; how he would praise the wind, water, fire, and earth. The book is beautifully designed. Unifying elements appear throughout, such as a repeated pattern of colored tiles, the verses of "The Canticle" reproduced in gold superimposed on a medieval-style shield background, and Le Tord's gold-embellished, primitive-style paintings. This title would not be the best choice to introduce young children to the life of Saint Francis, but for those who have some knowledge of him, it's is a lovely testament to his spirit.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Beginning with several pages of biography, the writer and illustrator then move to stanzas of "Canticle of Brother Sun" interspersed with stories from the life of St. Francis. The patron saint of ecology, with his romantic, dramatic life, is universally appealing for his love of and respect for the natural world, flora and fauna. Pandell and Le Tord capitalize on that beautifully. Le Tord's illustrations are watercolor, charcoal and mixed-media heightened with gold; often a frame is soft-focus grisaille with a few linear details and a glowing sun, halo or tree. Other times the images are in full color, like a pear that might be carved of agate, across from "Sing praises to Sister Earth . . . [who] produces herbs and flowers and fruits of many colors." The stanzas of the Canticle overlay a pale green trefoil geometric pattern that is repeated in a band of colors along the edges of the story pages. An excellent introduction to Francis and to his ancient and beloved canticle, for older children. (note to the reader, medieval sources, bibliography) (Biography. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763615635
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 11/8/2005
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 8 years
  • Product dimensions: 10.25 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Pandell is the award-winning author of a number of books for young children, including I LOVE YOU BABY, FROM HEAD TO TOE! and WHERE'S STRETCH? A Lift-the-Flap Book. SAINT FRANCIS SINGS TO BROTHER SUN is her first book for older readers. Of it she says, "The first time I heard 'The Canticle of Brother Sun,' I was spellbound by its powerful simplicity. Written more than eight centuries ago, the words of the Canticle remain as fresh and vibrant as nature itself. Through the Canticle, Saint Francis sings to each one of us today, child and grownup alike."

Bijou Le Tord has written and illustrated many children's books, including A BLUE BUTTERFLY: A STORY ABOUT CLAUDE MONET. About this book, she says, "A funny thing happened to me while illustrating the extraordinary stories of Saint Francis. I moved to France, where wild animals live so near, where one can see in all seasons, in all kinds of weather, a fox, a hare, a hawk, sometimes a boar, tilling the soil with its hard snout, or a small whistling eagle called a milan and the little, colorful singing birds Saint Francis loved. Almost each one found a place in my paintings." This is her first book with Candlewick Press.

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Read an Excerpt

THE FALCON AT THE HERMITAGE When Saint Francis sought solitude in a certain hermitage, a falcon that was building its nest there became his friend.
Before daybreak, in the soft moonlight, the bird, by his song and other noises, let the Saint know when it was time to rise for Divine worship. It please the Saint that the bird took great care that his prayers should not be delayed.
But when the Saint was tired more than usual or sick, the falcon spared him. At these times, the bird did not give his signal for rising for Matins* quite so early. Instead, as if directed by God, the falcon gently called to him around dawn.
Celano, Second Life, 168

*Matins is the first of the seven Hours, or services, said throughout the day. The others, in order of observance, are Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.

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