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Across a Dark and Wild Sea

by Don  Brown
Illustrated by Deborah Nadel (calligraphy)

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2002
32 pages
ISBN: 0-7613-1534-9

Ages 7 - 11

There weren't many people in Ireland who could read and write in the early 6th century but when Crimthann showed an interest in learning, his parents sent him to study with a bard in Leinster. From there, he attended monastery schools and converted to Christianity, changing his name to Columcille ("dove of the Church"). Most of Don Brown's lyrical account of his life focuses on Columcille's great love of books and learning. His single-minded passion for a Roman book of psalms owned by another monk, Finnian, led him to copy it on the sly, an act which eventually brought on a full-scale war after the High King ruled that Finnian owned the rights to the both the original and the copy. Columcille's own remorse over the bloodshed he had incited caused him to seek refuge on the island of Iona, off the coast of Scotland, where he established his own monastery which included, of course, a scriptorium where Columcille is said to have transcribed more than 300 books. Detailed illustrations show how books were produced prior to the invention of the printing press, with special attention given to the sources of colored inks. Overall, the somber pen-and-ink and watercolor paintings give an excellent sense of time and place while the poetic narrative serves to underscore the importance of the written word, today as in the time of St. Columcille. CCBC Categories: Biography and Autobiography.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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