The Life of St. Brigid by Jane G. Meyer is back in print! I’m so glad this gorgeous book is available again, and I’m grateful that Meyer gave me a copy so that I could share a review.
The Life of St. Brigid is not a conventional storybook. It is, as the title says, the life of a saint. In the Orthodox Church, lives of saints are stylized accounts, just like icons are stylized images. The conventions of the story, or the image, is intended to make the saint more accessible.
Specifically, Meyer’s Life of St. Brigid is intended to make St. Brigid accessible to children. And to Meyer’s everlasting credit, she doesn’t confuse accessible with patronizing. Her language is rich, full of interesting words and complex sentences. And she doesn’t shy away from aspects of St. Brigid’s story that are dark or difficult.
Meyer starts by informing the reader that St. Brigid’s father was a chieftain, and her mother was the chieftain’s Christian slave. Her father sold her mother when he heard the prophecies about her.
Meyer goes on to recount many of the best known and most loved events from St. Brigid’s life briefly and simply. Including the tale of St. Brigid’s cloak, which is one of my favorites.
What is most striking in all the accounts is St. Brigid’s generosity and her compassion for the poor. When someone is in need, she gives to them. If she has nothing, she finds something to give, even if that something is the chieftain’s sword!
The illustrations by Zachary Lynch are perfect for the story. He uses a blend of Celtic-inspired designs and the conventions of Orthodox iconography. It’s a really cool mix. The Celtic knotwork is glorious. And the stylized animals – especially the sheep and the cow – are a delight.
Children with a keen eye will notice that the people in the story almost always have flat faces, shown in profile. Except for St. Brigid, whose face looks like the face of an icon. So do the angels that show up in some of the illustrations, and Christ, and the Theotokos.
As much as I love the illustrations, I’m less fond of the font the text that The Life of St. Brigid is set in. The font is clearly intended to suggest an Irish manuscript from centuries past. And, in all honesty I truly love the font. It’s beautiful and evocative. But I suspect that newly independent readers will find it difficult.
St. Brigid’s Cloak and Blueberry Jam: This is my favorite story from the life of St. Brigid.
The Lenten Feast of St. Patrick: St. Patrick’s Day falls during Great Lent. But for the Irish, it’s a day of celebration. So how does that work out in practice?
17 essential picture books for Orthodox Christian kids: If you’re looking for picture books that include stories about Orthodox Christian people and traditions, you’ll find them on this list.