Another collaboration by Jeanette and Jonah Winter, this book has a beautiful, vibrant cover and is filled with amazing, almost folksy, artwork of the kind found in their earlier book Diego. However, the subject matter here is way too ethereal for most picture book readers, and speaks more to those with specific appreciation for or interest in Christian mysticism, losing the rest of readers.
Of course, the story of Hildegard is a complicated one to tell. But, in an attempt to capture the mystical tone of her life, this telling slips into myth bordering on historical inaccuracy. The language seems as if it comes straight from a Nativity play; while it's supposed to convey Hildegard's religious significance, most kids won't understand it, nor will they make sense of the chant that repeats throughout the book or the language that describes the visions, even though both are presented in different fonts meant to set them apart. All in all, this was a courageous and artistic attempt to write about an unusual woman, but while tweens may be intrigued, The Secret World of Hildegard falls short of its aim. To its credit, however, it includes a bibliography at the end for those who want to do further study.