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Friday, December 2, 2011

Naamah and the Ark at Night, written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and illustrated by Holly Meade. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2011. $19.00 ages 3 and up

"As rain falls over the ark
at night,
As water swirls in the dark
of night,
As thunder crashes
the seams of night,
As Noah tosses in
dreams of night."

Many of us have heard stories of Noah and his patience for offering a haven and then loading the animals of the world onto the ark. If we think about the chaos that must have greeted Noah and his family once the ark was full and the animals were busy doing what each one did best, we cannot fathom the cacophony of sound.

In her new book, Susan Campbell Bartoletti gives free rein to her imagination in fashioning a story that tells her readers about life on the ark, once the doors were closed and the storm ensued. If you know animals and people, you know that they become restless and uneasy when a storm arises.

To the rescue comes Naamah, who is Noah's lovely and gentle wife. Naamah is a songstress and she uses her music to calm everyone aboard their floating home. She soothes with her calm countenance, singing a tender lullaby throughout the night. She does not falter until all is peaceful and serene. It is only as dawn approaches that she takes to her bed for well-deserved slumber.

Holly Meade graces its pages with her signature collage work, using inks to add detail. Her palette changes as the lullaby is, watery blues to depict the continuing storm, silhouettes to give life to the gentle darkness of the night and the warmth of oranges, greens and browns as the animals first ramble and then succumb to the soothing lyrics of the songs sung.  

In an author's note, Susan Campbell Bartoletti explains the form chosen for her lullaby:

"The ghazal is a very old and extremely disciplined Arabic form, dating back to at least the seventh century. Its strict form, usually used in poems about longing and love and loss, requires each couplet to end with the same word, preceded by a rhyming word."

It is a story that begs to be read aloud at bedtime and would make a gorgeous and very appropriate baby gift.

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