It is highly common to see the following books on most reading lists: The
Whipping Boy, The Courage of Sarah Noble, Caddie
Woodlawn, The Door in the Wall, and The Hundred
Dresses. These selections are especially desired by homeschool families who wish to read books inspiring virtue and character. After reading Gabriel
and the Hour Book, I am surprised that I have never seen this book on any such reading list, as it celebrates virtues many believers hope to see in their own children.
Young Gabriel is a peasant boy whose job is to mix and grind colors for the monks who create illuminated texts. We learn that printing presses did not exist at this time, and all books had to be hand-written. The job of illuminating often fell to monks who made their books as works of art, using fine color and embellishments. When Gabriel is sovereignly paired up with a disgruntled monk, Brother Stephen, both he and his new friend are changed forever. Their task is to create an "hour book" for King Louis the XII's fiancée, Lady Anne of Bretagne. We learn that an hour book was a common prayer book during this time, receiving its name because it was read at specific hours of the day. The king, knowing that his future bride loves beautiful books, selects this particular monastery because it is known for its distinguished work.
Brother Stephen soon finds pleasure in his young protégé and is rejuvenated in his work. The two set out to make the most beautiful hour book anyone has ever seen. However, a series of trials present themselves to our little hero, who seeks God's help in a most unexpected way. His simplistic faith and trust are played out throughout the rest of the text, leading to a climax and ending that are very endearing. I will not spoil it for you.
I absolutely love reading, and though I am often touched by the sweetness of children's stories like The
Courage of Sarah Noble or the hard lesson learned in The
Hundred Dresses, something about Gabriel's character in this short little
work (87 pages) and the subtle lessons about character really moved me. Gabriel
struggles with challenging burdens, yet he shows the compassion and care we would
all hope to see in our own children. The Abbot and Count Pierre have character flaws that we are gently led to recognize and judge as wrong. This text presents a beautiful picture of true goodness in a subtle yet meaningful way. Additionally, the writing style is beautiful. You will find yourself drawn to its artistry, yet it is accessible for children 8 years old and up. This is one of those books that all families should read together. It is a simple yet powerful telling of one boy's faith and hope fulfilled. Simply beautiful.