Author: Kathleen Norris
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Publisher: Puffin Books
Audience: 5-8 year olds
Summary: This story of a pair of twins is written with care and imagination. The story captures the attention of the reader immediately and follows the twins through life. They love each other very, very much, sharing life almost as one until it becomes time for them to separate as adults. Northern Italy is the setting of their childhood, so it is appropriate that Benedict is sent to study in Rome and Scholastica is sent to a monastery in Nursia. They each experienced different things, but the comfort and pull of God was apparent and strong for each of them. Benedict began to wish for more time in the quiet presence of God and settled in a cave at the base of a cliff. Benedict’s referent, holy life became known and that knowledge began to spread. This caused other faithful followers to retreat to quiet, monastic places and Benedict founded a monastery for men to live in harmony with God. Some of the local priests were jealous and attempted to end Benedict’s life – they were not successful. Benedict and Scholastica determined to reconnect by meeting regularly and they realized immediately how much they had missed the other one and how strong their love was for each other. As the years passed by, they both died, but left an amazing discipline for others to follow. The Benedictine Rule is still followed today by many Christian monks and nuns all over the world. The book is well written and beautifully illustrated. The illustrations are colorful and dynamic, using the entirety of each page to carry the color throughout. The story is wonderful in itself, but the illustrations allow the story to be more alive and vibrant.
Literary elements at work in the story: This book is a historical biography of Benedict and provides the historical record of the Benedictine Order developed by St. Benedict. The story is in a narrative form and tells a story showing the intensity of love between two siblings, as well as the importance of spiritual disciplines.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The story emerges showing the love and importance of the nuns in the convents as well as the monks in the monasteries. The work done by each of these groups is similar and portrayed to be of equal importance. In reflecting on differences in gender, our obedience and willingness to follow God and we are all one with God and God shows no difference in male or female. There are equal opportunities in most Christian denominations.
Theological Conversation Partners: This story about two ordinary children who focused their lives and dedicated themselves to God at an early age. This dedication continued and as a result, thousands of people have followed the example of St Benedict and the Trappist Order. We are called to be obedient to Christ and that is what St. Benedict did.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why was it difficult for Benedict and Scholastica to live apart that first year?
- The book alludes that the storm happened at that specific time for a reason. What is the reason?
- What is the significance of St Benedict seeing the dove rising into the heavens?
- What did St. Benedict leave to others?
- Are there ways that the Rule of St Benedict can be followed without being a monk in a monastery or a nun in a convent?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Becky Albright.