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
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
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!
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