Naamah and the Ark at Night (Hardcover)
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Holly Meade (illustrator) 9780763642426
Enchantingly beautiful in every way. There are the illustrations by Holly Meade that capture the magic of the stormy night as the ark is at sea. There is the verse form used, the ghazal, which was new to me and perfectly chosen for it’s lilting, song-like, ancient qualities. There is the biblical element of the story, and this new ark story is unlike any I’ve ever read. And, it’s a bedtime book. A mother singing to the animals and her family on the ark, soothing their restlessness, and relaxing them to sleep. What more can you ask for? Each depiction is slightly over-sized, even the text, filling up each two page spread with larger than life imagery. Perfect for immersing oneself and a little one in an evening ritual. An author’s note in the back describes her personal inspiration, giving readers an opportunity for further introspection about one of the most well-known tales in the Bible.
UPDATE: Kirkus Reviews named Naamah and the Ark at Night a Children’s Best Book for 2011! Here is the Kirkus review:
NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT (reviewed on July 15, 2011)
The animals march along two by two in most Noah’s Ark stories, but Noah’s partner is often missing altogether. In this unusual interpretation of one of the most popular Bible stories, it’s Noah’s wife who is the star as she sings the arkful of animals to sleep.
The story begins with the great storm and flood waters surrounding the ark at night. The animals “pace and roar and growl,” and Noah has nightmares, but his wife, Naamah, sings all night long, soothing and petting the restless animals. In an intriguing author’s note, Bartoletti explains the origins of the name Naamah as well as the Arabic poetic form used as the text’s structure. This format uses couplets that all end with the same word, with each ending word preceded by a rhyming word. “She sings for moon to fill the night; / She sings for stars to thrill the night.” The text has a lovely, soothing effect, with the repeated ending words and a lilting cadence that effectively suggests a comforting lullaby. Meade’s watercolor collage illustrations match the dramatic pacing of the text with varied perspectives and humorous views of the sleeping (or prowling) animals. Several striking spreads show Naamah and a pair of the largest animals in stark silhouette shapes against a speckled gray background that suggests the night sky.
This captivating interpretation creates a remarkable partner for Noah, who uses her special talent in a memorable way. (Picture book. 3-7)
I am such a fan of illustrator Holly Meade, that I must also mention two other books illustrated by her. One published this spring, If I Never Forever Endeavor and another published last fall, In the Wild, both Candlewick titles and two other personal favorites.
UPDATE: If I Never Forever Endeavor named a Kirkus Reviews’ Children’s Best Book of 2011! Here’s the review:
IF I NEVER FOREVER ENDEAVOR (reviewed on March 1, 2011)
To fly or not to fly is the question for a little bird weighing the pros and cons of launching into the unknown. Perched in his comfy nest, the fledgling nervously wonders if he can fly. “On the one wing,” he muses, he might “flail, / flounder and / plummet, / look foolish / and fail.” But “on the other wing,” he might “rise high and / float free.” If he endeavors, he could “sail through the trees” and “see the world”—or get very lost. As he watches other birds flying, the fledgling tentatively gives his wings a “little flap” and, before he knows it, he’s flying! Meade effectively uses rhyme (“forever,” “endeavor,” “whether,” “clever”), onomatopoeia (“flutter,” “thwack,” “thud,” “thump,” “flap”) and repetition to accentuate the fledgling’s inner conflict, while words like “swoop,” “soar,” “glide” and “dare” reinforce his eventual triumph. Stunning collages of textured linoleum block prints and watercolors span double-page spreads to showcase the wee yellow bird warily peeking out of his nest on a pine bough as he debates and imagines himself soaring as well as plummeting. Loosely applied brush strokes evoke the swooping and gliding of birds and, in one humorous sequence, the fledgling literally flutters and flaps across the page. An irresistible invitation to test those wings and fly. (Picture book. 4-8)
Belle, The Last Mule at Gee’s Bend: A Civil Rights Story
by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Bettye Stroud, John Holyfield (Illustrator) 9780763640583
This book took my breath away. Another chapter in Civil Rights history that is essential to retell, Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend recounts the role that mules played in helping transport blacks to the polls to vote for the first time.
The symbolism of mules’ humility, strength and steadfastness appealed to Martin Luther King as he encouraged blacks to be strong as they broke through long-held barriers to their civil rights. Belle is a working mule in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and was there the day Martin Luther King came to visit in 1965. His message to the people there was that even though they lead simple, hard lives, they were still somebody.
On election day that year, the sheriff had shut down the river ferry, the only means of easily getting to town for the people of the farming community of Gee’s Bend. Mules pulled wagonloads of people the better part of a day around the river to town to vote. People lost their jobs for voting.
After Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, the community of Gee’s Bend was called with a request for mules to pull his coffin through the streets of Atlanta. Without the proper papers to transport livestock across state lines, the mules were stopped and the people were threatened with arrest. Calls were made, and the mules were allowed to proceed. Belle was one of two mules that pulled the wagon with Martin Luther King’s body three and a half miles through the city of Atlanta. Nearly fifty thousand people marched in quiet procession behind the wagon that sad day.
To the people of Gee’s Bend, Belle is a hero.
Interestingly, in February of this year, the river ferry was restored allowing crossing of the Alabama River from Gee’s Bend to Camden, the county seat of Wilcox county, fifty-two years after it was stopped during the Civil Rights movement. Click here for more on the story from CBS News.
A House in the Woods (Hardcover)
by Inga Moore 9780763652777
The loveliest kind of picture book. A whimsical story, endearing characters, and an immediately rendered believable world. A sort of two little pigs, a bear and a moose and house in the woods that is fit for them all. This book makes me smile every time I read it.