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A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals


Selections From The Ark Number 208 - Spring 2008


Books for children

Animals of the Bible from A to Z, by Alice Camille. Illustrations by Sarah Evelyn Showalter. Skokie, IL: ACTA
Publications, ISBN 9780879463311, 2007, $16.96.

If ever a children's book could be called a bargain, Animals of the Bible from A to Z is it. A beautiful large-print work with unforgettable illustrations, like most enduring classics this book has something for everyone. The two-year-old will squeal with delight at the camel (C) 'that can't fit through narrow places' just as surely as the eight-year-old will be filled with awe at the insects (I) that will eat when God says, 'Eat!' And although some of the lessons here are familiar, readers will find themselves turning eagerly to the back of the book where 'Pages for Grownups' presents scriptural references for each picture as well as the wonderfully informative 'Lessons to Learn'. 'My mission in life', award-winning author Alice Camille admits, 'is to make the Bible more approachable.'

And this she does, in style!

One of the most engaging 'lessons' is that animals, insects - all of nature - obey God readily, without question, while we humans often need quite a bit of prodding to do the same thing.

This book is so fascinating, so entertaining, and the artwork is so engaging, it would make a wonderful gift - a coffee-table book anyone would be proud to display. But, as far as sitting down with a child and reading it page by page, get ready for the questions! A big help, if it's 'been awhile' since you've considered some of the more gory practices described in the Old Testament, is the short section from Vatican II on Revelation in the opening pages of the New American Bible.

Do you really need to refer to the Bible? No. But it's my guess you're going to want to. The inspiration (guidance) of God which moved the individual writers as they attempted to frame God's messages in terms of their own time and culture is humbling indeed. Most importantly, however, is the instruction that it is the message itself that counts, the wisdom hidden beneath the words, never the story's details.

All is not serious, however: 'And, if there was a Unicorn (U), he must have missed the boat'. 'Obviously we're just having some fun here,' remarks the author who suggests a lesson on 'the relationship between the Bible, history and science', a lesson totally lost on my six-year-old granddaughter who insisted she now understands why no dinosaurs are in the Bible either! Like the Unicorn, they must have missed the boat! Well, (sigh)... some things are better left alone.

But it didn't end there. This same child returned to the letter H, placed her hand on the picture of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse and refused to let me turn the page until I explained. And although a rather innocent picture of some banished demons made her shudder in (delighted?) horror, strangely, the vipers (V) 'that resemble nasty folk' did not scare her at all. When I asked her if the vipers didn't scare her because Jesus was in the same picture, she nodded shyly. Ah, another teachable moment.

So, you see, the older the child the more challenges for the adult reader and the more possibilities for fun and learning, amazement and appreciation. The marvelous artistry of Sarah Showalter and the gentle encouragement of scriptural writer and religious educator Alice Camille (a masters graduate of the Franciscan School of Theology at Berkeley) encourage all of us, regardless of age, to delve into the wonders of Scripture.

Do I have some cautions? Yes. Readers of The Ark should be aware that certain quotations referring to God's supposed sanction of meat-eating are given in reference. Letters A (Peter's vision in Acts in which God presents him with a carpet of all the animals on earth and tells him, 'slaughter and eat') and Z (Genesis 9 in which God tells Noah 'every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat') include these passages along with more palatable ones (excuse the pun). Although the lessons are good ones and have nothing to do with eating meat, and although most older children will understand this, it might be wiser to avoid such verses with our younger vegetarians. Also be careful when reading Scripture out loud. For example, Exodus 7-11 are recommended to explain letter I. Well, you'd better stop at chapter ten, because chapter 11, verse 5 speaks of God's decreeing the death of every first-born child, human and animal, in the enemy's kingdom. Chances are, you'd rather not have to explain that one!

So, just a little caution is needed. Otherwise, enjoy!

Bobbie Anderson

Return to: Number 208 - Spring 2008

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