Title: The Song of Francis
Author and Illustrator: Tomie De Paola
It's been more than a month since my last Tomie de Paola post, so it's high time for another. On Sunday I witnessed the baptism of my dear friend's 2nd son Henry, and bought him the vibrant and joyful The Song of Francisto celebrate that happy day.
The book relates the story of one of St. Francis' most famous hymns of praise, commonly called Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. This hymn of praise points out all the blessings of creation and thanks God for them:
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,It's a beautiful poem of praise, and a rich source of material for a children's book--in Assisi they sell little plaques painted with this prayer and little drawings of sheep in a pasture, and the sun and moon, just so parents can buy them for their children. It is so perfect a topic, in fact, that I don't know why no one has done it before.
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness...
Or perhaps they have--but not as well as DePaola has done here. His religious books have always been my favorite--simple and gracefully executed--he always picks excellent subjects for a young Christian child to encounter.
This book is a departure from his familiar style--or should I say a development. As an older man, his style of illustration has changed in the past few years--like Matisse's cut-outs, DePaola's signature folk-inspired illustrations are becoming more stylized, colorful, and joyful. Somehow the quaint and charming character of his older drawings have, through stylized form and brilliant colors, become more innocent and more graceful (literally).
This book is no exception--the pages are as vibrant and vivacious as St. Francis' hymn. He not only tells the (imagined) story of St. Francis' inspiration--he manages to convey the same overwhelming love and gratitude for God's gifts in creation. This book is truly beautiful, and I certainly hope Henry will love it as he grows older.