Here is one of the first chapters
It was the year of our Lord 1182. Pietro Bernardone was glad that he was nearly home. His business trip to France - buying and selling wool and silk cloth - had been very profitable, but he had missed his native Umbria. There the air seemed cleaner and the sunlight brighter, and the stone houses shone a rosy pink, like nowhere else in the world.
Pietro could see his goal, perched halfway up the mountain: his beloved Assisi. Today he was even more impatient than usual to get home because during his months away his wife, Donna Pica, had given birth to a son. The boy had already been baptised in the cathedral of Saint Rufino and had been given the name Giovanni (John). That evening, Donna Pica told her husband that the night that the baby was born she had heard angels singing. Furthermore, when she had taken the boy to be baptised she had been welcomed into the cathedral by an old man with a long white beard who had a serene look on his face. The old man had begged to hold the baby at the font, and after the baptism he signed the sign of the cross on the baby's back. After doing so, he gave the baby back to his mother and then promptly disappeared.
The following months and years were happy ones for the Bernardone family. Giovanni grew up healthy and he developed into a loving, kind and unselfish child. As he learned to talk, his mother, who originally came from Provence, taught him French words and songs. When he chattered to his friends in broken French and sang French songs to them he acquired a nickname - he became known as 'Francesco'- the little Frenchman. This nickname stayed with him for the rest of his life, and eventually he would go down in history as Saint Francis of Assisi.
There was no doubt in the Bernardone household that Francis would follow in his father's footsteps. The boy was not well educated - he learned a little Latin, but could only write with difficulty. (In later life he dictated his letters and signed them with a cross.) Pietro was ambitious for his son and gave him as much money as he wanted. He was well aware that he and his son belonged to the merchant class, but with money Francis was able to associate with the young nobles of the city. He became extravagant and pleasure-seeking, though he never refused to help a beggar. Much to his father's annoyance, Francis often gave away all the money he had on him, and sometimes even gave away some of his own clothes. One story is told of Francis serving a customer in his father's shop when a beggar approached him. Manners meant that Francis had to deal with the customer first, and when he had done so, the beggar had gone away. He left his father's bales of silk and cloth and rushed around the city until he found the man, and gave him money. Then he promised God that never again would he refuse to help a poor man.
I do recommend this book, not just for its scholarship but for its liveliness and interest.
And thanks to Allan for his 14 years of service to Caldicott.