“A symbolic story celebrating books and libraries that will be most appreciated by mature readers.”
As a river rises so slowly it’s imperceptible, an old woman dreams of impending destruction. The woman is part of the household of the biblical prophet and ark builder Noah, and as Noah is shown in shadowy background illustrations gathering animals, the woman begins to gather “promises” into a vessel. The promises mirror the animals simultaneously being gathered: “fast ones,” “slow ones,” and “young ones that could fit inside a shell.” When the waters again subside, the woman creates a space where the promises can be shared with others. In the closing line, the promises are revealed to be books, which continue to be available to readers at their own vessels of promises: their local libraries. While the celebration of books and libraries is a commendable message that all readers can appreciate, the opaque narrative and incredibly abstract illustrations of this “bookish fable” will likely make it most appealing and best suited for mature readers. The opening of the story, with a rising river and a woman’s foreboding dream, is intriguing, and there are enough clues along the way in both text and illustration that readers familiar with the biblical account of the flood will recognize the relation, but even the very astute may not deduce the promises’ symbolic representation of books. While a few lines are delightfully poetic—“The old woman gathered the ones that gathered dust”—some rhymes are hastily phrased, preserving a rhythmic cadence but impairing the sophistication of the fable.
I think this is a book that will grow on me, and it has some really cool artistic elements (and great cadence) but it also has the weird factor going on, particularly with the illustrations.
Very inventive illustrations. It is intriguing because you aren’t sure what the promises are until the end.
Caldecott medalist Ed Young was born in Tientsin, China, and brought up in Shanghai. He cites the philosophy of Chinese painting as an inspiration for much of his work. “A Chinese painting is often accompanied by words,” he explains; “they are complementary. There are things that words do that pictures never can, and likewise, there are images that words can never describe.”Mr. Young has been illustrating children’s books for more than twenty years and has won many awards. He received the 1990 Caldecott Medal for his book <i>Lon Po Po</i>, and his much-lauded collaboration with anthologist Nancy Larrick, <i>Cats Are Cats</i>, was named one of the Ten Best Illustrated Books of 1988 by <i>The New York Times</i>.Mr. Young studied at the University of Illinois, the Art Center of Los Angeles, and Pratt Institute in New York City. He and his family live in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.copyright 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.