Caedmon's Song, by Ruth Ashby, illustrated by Bill Slavin, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2006
The story in this beautiful book comes from Bede, England's first historian. We know that Caedmon was a real person, and his one surviving work, "Caedmon's Hymn", is the earliest-known poem written in English.
Caedmon hated poetry, because he could never come up with anything when the harp was passed to him on feast days. All his friends had tales to tell of heroes and monsters, battles and fabulous deeds. But when it was his turn, Caedmon always froze.
After storming out of a feast on St. Stephen's Eve, he had a dream in which a man came to him and asked him to sing him a song. Caedmon refused at first, but when the man told him to sing about creation he was suddenly inspired and sang a short hymn about creation and its Creator. When he woke the next morning he remembered the whole thing, and he finally had a song to share. Not only that, but the abbess of Whitby Abbey asked him to take the monastic vows and devote the rest of his life to writing hymns and poetry.
I love this story about dreams and inspiration. I love that this man who started out as a cowherd who thought he had nothing to say turned out to be a dreamer who would share his poetry with many. And I love being able to share with my kids that things are not always the way we think they are, that our dreams have significance in our lives.