Top critical review
22 people found this helpful
on January 26, 2005
Now it seems to me that if you're the kind of person who goes around deciding to write a whole new picture book about the story of Noah's ark, you have two choices before you. You can try to reinterpret the classic tale in a new, amusing, or artistic way. "Noah's Ark" by Peter Spier (which won a Caldecott) falls into this category. It's a funny, wordless, different look at the story. The other way is to be epic, bold, and (to be frank) humorless. And in this camp we find Jerry Pinkney's, "Noah's Ark". Telling the story of Noah word for word without any digressions or spots of flamboyant creativity, this book is a straightforward encapsulation of the story we all know so very very well. It's a lovely work and certainly a pleasure to page through but it's gosh darn earnest. A book that takes itself a little too seriously.
I guess I could sum up the story of Noah's ark here, but you probably are familiar with the text. If not, it goes like this: People bad, Noah good. God tells Noah to go and build an arky arky. Animals come two by two, world floods, world unfloods, animals disembark. Noah good, rainbows good, the end. The book doesn't say which version of the Bible Pinkney got the words for this book from, but it's very clear that he's staying very close to the original text. This is a matter-of-fact story. Fortunately, Pinkney livens it up some with his customary style. The animals are all over this book, from blue-faced baboons to the delicate soaring butterflies. Pinkney even begins the book with a reiteration of "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth", complete with animals swimming, flying, and lurking. This fades beautifully into the subsequent story. Then, at the end of the book, you see the Earth dotted with beautiful rainbows as the text explains how the cycles of the globe, "shall never cease as long as the earth endures". Wraps the book up nicely, it does.
But for the man who brought the world the eclectic and incredibly original "Sam and the Tigers", it seems odd to be that he'd show the Noah story in such an old-fashioned light. Here, Noah and his family are white people in robes. The ark (a spectacular image of the ark's frame alone makes the book worth paging through) is exactly as it always appears in books and paintings. There's nothing in this book that makes the story particularly ... well.... human. It's serious business going on here. Serious epic rebirth-of-humanity type stuff. But would it have killed him to have placed a visual gag somewhere? Told a line with more punch and less sobriety?
I guess I should never have looked at the Peter Spier book before coming to this one. That was my problem. Don't get me wrong... this book is truly lovely. And if you want a matter-of-fact retelling of Noah, there's no better place to look than here. But if you have a sense of humor, a penchant for pairing the beautiful with the jolly, and a love of new ways of looking at old stories, do not come to Jerry Pinkney. Come to Peter Spier instead. Mr. Pinkney has written a variety of interesting new picture books with important lessons. This book is good, but one of his less inventive works.