The Secret World of Hildegard (Jonah Winter)

This is a picture book telling the story of Hildegard von Bingen. Here is some background info about Hildegard von Bingen, who lived in the early 1000's. She is significant in the musical composition world because she was the first writer of music whose biography is known. She was also a scientist who studied animals, plants, and medicine. Her book Causes and Cures still provides the basis for alternative medicine. She is celebrated as a saint in Germany, though she was not ever officially made a saint.

This book is more about her mystical visions than her musical and scientific accomplishments. She always credited her creativity to God, the creator of all things and all people. The story begins with establishing that girls were not allowed to go to school, and were only taught to serve. "They were taught to be quiet and to be very gray." Even from Hildegard's days as a young girl, she had a special world all inside her head, though she did not know what it was or what to do with it. When she was 3, she correctly predicted the color of a calf that had not yet been born (Though, I found myself wondering, is that really such a big deal? You look at the momma cow and the daddy cow and choose one or the other, or a  combo of both!)   

Hildegard continued to have visions, and began to have headaches because she did not know what to do or who to tell about those visions. Because of her headaches, she was sent away to a monastery, in hopes that the nuns could help her with the headaches. At the monastery, the nuns taught Hildegard about the Bible, prayers, music, and how to read. She continued to have visions, and finally began to tell a monk and a nun about them, who wrote them down and compiled them in a book that was presented to the Pope. He approved and her writings were sought by many people.

In the end, her headaches went away, and Hildegard was happy because she was sharing the creativity God had given her.

It's a very different sort of biography. The pictures are pretty, though. I'm just happy to have learned something about a famous woman in world history.