Saturday, August 25, 2007

One Is One by Barbara Leonie Picard

Stephen de Beauville was from a family of knights, but it seemed he was unfit for this profession. He was afraid of dogs, couldn't stand up for himself, and had a talent for drawing. His father, however, merely stated that he would be a monk. Stephen had no friends, and his siblings tormented him all the time. One day, his father's prize bitch gave birth to a litter of seven pups, but one was small and was to be drowned. Stephen, out of sheer pity, told them he would take it so it wouldn't be drowned. When he receives it, he immediately attempts to abandon it, but ends up rescuing it and keeping it. Naming him Amile, after the friend he never had, Stephen overcame his fear of dogs, and was no longer tormented as Amile was faithful and stood up for him when he was hit. Then, however, his father was going to send him to a monastery, and he couldn't keep Amile. Rather than give him to his cruel, abusive brother, Stephen decided to have Amile put down. At the monastery, he remained reclusive, speaking only when necessary. In his lessons, he often drew on his slate, and after so many beatings, his teacher finally sent him to the scriptorium. Over the next few months, Stephen would go there and be taught to draw by Brother Ernulf, the master of the scriptorium. His talent became so pronounced that he was allowed to draw in the gospels that Brother Ernulf was making, and no one, as yet, had been allowed to draw in it. However, Ernulf was grouchy and rarely complimented anyone, so Stephen never knew how great an artist he really was. Therefore, when his brothers came to make fun of him one day, he had no reason to stay and ran off from the monastery to seek to become a knight. After ten days of begging and working for meager amounts of food, he finally stole a loaf of bread from a woman who promptly called for help. Stephen was thrown onto the ground and beaten. Fortunately, Sir Paine Latourelle, or Sir Pagan, came along and stopped them. Stephen told Sir Pagan of his ambitions and Sir Pagan took him on as his squire. When Sir Pagan joined with another noble to attempt to rescue the king, most of his men were killed, leaving Stephen, Sir Pagan, and Ranulf, a mercenary. Ranulf sold them anonymously, and Sir Pagan managed to save Stephen by blaming him for turning him in. So, Sir Pagan was beheaded in front of a crowd, and Stephen went into a state of depression, unable to talk for many months. Finally, his uncle found him and took him as his squire. Stephen remained with his uncle for many years, going on a pilgrimage with him and continued until he was knighted. Then, on their way to war with the Scots, Stephen's squire's parents died, so his squire had to return to England. Stephen took on a new squire, one with a reputation of misbehaving, Thomas FitzAmory. Thomas was quite sullen for the first few weeks, then, after attempting to anger Stephen by putting salt in his wine and being forced to drink it, he opened up and he and Stephen became close friends. This friendship, however, was once again not to last. After the campaign, as they headed back to England, Thomas was struck with smallpox and died. Stephen, once again without friends, finally realized that he was meant to be an artist. After remembering Sir Pagan's last words to him, "Do not be afraid to do what you want to do," Stephen explained to his uncle that he wished to return the the monastery at Richley, he was welcomed back with open arms, and he was set to work by Ernulf to finish the gospels, as Ernulf was nearly blind. There at the monastery Stephen lived out the rest of his life in happiness.

One is One by Barbara Leonie Picard not only is a great story, but sends a great message. It will make you feel what Stephen is feeling as Picard describes the helpless pup Amile, and how all of Stephen's friends and companions were torn away from him. It was hard to put down at night, and the first thing in my hand in the morning. I've never read a book quite like it. The message it sends from Sir Pagan's quote is wonderful. "Do not be afraid to do what you want to do." This was an outstanding book.

Content: Some slightly gory descriptions

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9

Reviewer Age: 14
Reviewer City, State and Country: Chambersburg, PA United States