The Biblical story of Noah has its counterpart in nearly every culture around the world and has been interpreted in a variety of forms. But only the Old Testament version has the complete scope of elements that make it such a literary classic and one which has been interpreted again and again by some of the best children’s book authors and illustrators. Peter Spier’s nearly wordless edition won the Caldecott Medal in 1978 and remains one of my favorites. It begins with a lovely lyrical poem by Jacobus Revius (1586-1658) that would make a wonderful work for bright young minds to memorize. It begins like this:
High and long,
Thick and strong
Wide and stark,
Said the Lord.
Other editions that capture the wonder and magnificence of this story are Arthur Geisert’s The Ark and Lisbeth Zwerger’s Noah’s Ark. Geisert is a master in pen and ink and his detailed drawings capture the grand scope of this drama. In Zwerger’s edition she adds surrealistic elements (unicorns and centaurs make an appearance) that allow the story to transcend a concrete world of time and space. Noah’s family at times look as though they could be contemporary Jews escaping the holocaust (except for an anachronistic hat or other article of clothing) which of course lends the tale a deeper and broader impact for pondering. Zwerger’s use of space transcends the concrete material world and lends a mystery and delight to a beloved tale.