Monks are one of the reasons we have so many books today: before the printing press, monks were the printing press, diligently copying manuscripts and preserving them for future generations (and sometimes having a little fun doodling in the margins as well).

So it’s only fitting that we now make some books about monks and their way of life. Here are five great “brotherly” books featuring the brothers in monastic communities.

Brother Giovanni's Little Reward
Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward

Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward
By Anna Egan Smucker
Illustrated by Amanda Hall

Brother Giovanni is a happy man, content to do what he knows best: baking. But all is not well at his monastery, where the monks are trying to teach the children their prayers in time for a very important visit from the Bishop. Having tried everything, they turn to Giovanni — but he doesn’t know anything about teaching! Eventually, though, Brother Giovanni discovers how to use his gifts to offer the children the perfect motivation and invents the tasty treat we now know as the pretzel.

This vibrant book, which includes a historical note and a pretzel recipe, tells the fascinating story behind one of the world’s most popular snacks.

Brother Hugo and the Bear

Brother Hugo and the Bear
By Katy Beebe
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Brother Hugo can’t return his library book — the letters of St. Augustine — because, it turns out, the precious book has been devoured by a bear! Instructed by the abbot to borrow another monastery’s copy and create a replacement, the hapless monk painstakingly crafts a new book, copying it letter by letter and line by line. But when he sets off to return the borrowed copy, he finds himself trailed by his hungry new friend. Once a bear has a taste of letters, it appears, he’s rarely satisfied!

Brother Hugo and the Bear is loosely based on a note found in a twelfth-century manuscript — and largely on the creative imaginings of author Katy Beebe. Lavishly illustrated by S. D. Schindler in the style of medieval manuscripts, this humorous tale is sure to delight readers who have acquired their own taste for books.

The Song of Francis and the Animals

The Song of Francis and the Animals
By Pat Mora
Woodcut illustrations by David Frampton

“Baa-baa,” sang the lamb.
“Shoo, go play,” said Francis,
but the little lamb just grinned
and trotted happily behind the man
who preached to people and dogs
and flowers and fish and frogs.

With lilting verse and playful imagery, award-winning author Pat Mora celebrates the tender relationship between the beloved saint and the animals he loved. Woodcut artist David Frampton captures the exuberant songs of Francis and the animals in charming, colorful woodcuts that underscore the harmony between humans and the natural world.

Inspired by Saint Francis’s own reverence and love for animals, this book will encourage readers young and old to join in with the clucks of the chickens, the whirring of the cicadas, and the songs of the nightingale.

Saints: Lives & Illuminations

Saints: Lives and Illuminations
By Ruth Sanderson

From well-known saints like Patrick and Francis of Assisi to such lesser-known figures as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and Saint Bernardino, this volume brings together all of the saint stories from Ruth Sanderson’s previous books, Saints and More Saints.

Each of the saints featured — over 70 in all — is presented through a beautiful detailed portrait paired with a brief biographical sketch, which includes dates, feast days, and patronage information. The book also features an introduction detailing the process of becoming a saint, a list of additional resources, and a glossary offering readers deeper insight into the historical and religious context of the saints’ lives.

Readers of all ages will be inspired by the stories of these remarkable men and women who have provided spiritual examples to Christians from the very beginning of the church up to the present day.

More Saints

More Saints: Lives & Illuminations
By Ruth Sanderson

This handsome volume includes beautifully painted portraits and biographical sketches of thirty-six remarkable men and women of the second millennium. In addition to well-known saints like Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua, More Saints also explores the lives of lesser-known people, such as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and Saint Bernardino.

An introduction detailing the process of becoming a saint, a listing of additional resources, and a glossary offer readers deeper insight into the historical and religious context of the saints’ lives.

As a sequel to Sanderson’s book about saints who lived in the first millennium or as a stand-alone volume, this book will instruct and inspire readers of all ages.