The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane

by | Oct 28, 2010 | Books, Picture Books | 13 comments

“In the mountains of Mourne, up twisted old bends, 
past blackberry brambles and ancient wood glens, 
there stood a tall tower – a circle of stone-
where holy men lived, wearing simple brown robes,
filling simple brown books, eating simple brown bread,
and saying their prayers by their simple brown beds.
They all looked alike, they all seemed the same,
except for the brother they called Theophane.”
A couple weeks ago, my husband and I were browsing through a gift shop after we attended a Pride & Prejudice play for our anniversary. We ran across a picture book by C.M. Millen, The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane.  I hadn’t heard of it before so I opened the cover to see when it was published, and sure enough it was only recently published this past July! 
It is absolutely lovely!   

The story is about the youngest monk, Brother Theophane, who lives in a small medieval Irish monastery where the monks work quietly side by side, copying manuscripts with plain brown ink.   Brother Theophane is easily distracted by the beauty of the world outside his window that he is sent outside to work:  boiling bark to make ink.   Inspired by the stains from the blackberries, he starts experimenting with berries, roots, twigs and leaves to make various colors of ink!  Soon the monks were using the colorful ink for their manuscripts.

“Heavenly hues now covered their pages
and filled their bright books with colorful phrases.”
The book is delightful to read and the detailed illustrations are beautiful.  
I purchased this book to give to one of my children on the Feast of St. Nicholas this year (one of our family traditions is to give each of our children a new christmas and/or saint books on this feast), but let’s just see if I can keep it packed away that long!  I am dying to read it to my little ones…

P.S.  Amazon sells this great picture book for much less than I paid at the bookstore! Even less if you buy a used copy… Either way, it is totally worth adding to your home library! 


  1. Donna Marie

    OOh! This sounds wonderful! thanks for the heads up!

  2. Kelly

    Just added this to my amazon wish list. Thanks so much for recommendation, Jessica!

  3. Jennifer Gregory Miller

    I found this at our library a few months ago and just loved it! It totally ties in with study of middle ages, monks, calligraphy, gardening, making inks and dyes….

  4. Jessica Gordon

    Doesn't it though!?! I was SO excited to find it! And we are even studying the Middle Ages this year!!! 🙂

  5. Texas Exiles

    Looks fabulous!
    I just bought it.
    Thanks for the recommendation

  6. Anonymous

    always looking for good books for the kids, thanks for the recommendation.

  7. Marci

    oh the cover looks so pretty. i have a hard time saying "No" to books, especially when they look so pretty. I am ordering one now.. And….. I WILL SAVE IT for St. Nicholas day. CAN YOU LAST THAT LONG???

    Also, thanks for leaving your comment on my 100th Post. Your 100th post picture is adorable. The girls are sooo little. So precious!!!

  8. Karen Perez

    Congratulations! I just saw your blog listed as one of the Top 50 Catholic Blogs.

  9. Karen Perez

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Angie

    This was perfect! I have been trying to think ahead to which books I wanted to add to our library and this is definitely going to be one of them. Thanks for the tip!

  11. Anonymous

    Oh! I am adding that to my wishlist!

  12. Unknown

    I don't know if you read replies from posts that are 6 years old, but this is an awesome book! Memoria Press has it in their first grade Enrichment book!

  13. Jessica Gordon

    I do! Thank you for taking the time to comment! 🙂

    It really is a wonderful book! We still love it. That is so great that Memoria Press includes it in their curriculum now!


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