Monday, October 27, 2008

The Not-So-Random Shelf: Nonfiction

I’ve graduated to the 200s, which is a huge and diverse section. The 200s cover mythology, history of religion, Bible stories, comparative religion, and examinations of individual religions.

When I saw that Kathleen Norris and Tomie dePaola collaborated on a book, I knew I had to read it right away. Kathleen Norris is best known for her spiritual memoirs, and Tomie dePaola is known for his terrific folktales and other picture books, coupled with his extraordinary and distinctive illustrations.

Their awesome talents combined to form a splendid children’s picture book biography of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. St. Benedict is famous for his Rule of Benedict, which is still followed by Benedictine monasteries. St. Scholastica, his twin, was known for her love of singing and for her devotion to the poor. Her experience within her own convent influenced his Rule of Benedict, and they remained close friends (and occasional agitators, as are all siblings) until they died.

Sts. Benedict and Scholastica might not be the most exciting saints in Catholic history, but their innovations and strong relationship with each other make them two of the most enduring and understandable saints. The gifts of these two talented authors make The Holy Twins a pleasure to read.

When choosing which single-volume Bible stories to review, I choose the two Jewish Scriptures/Old Testament stories that I feel resonate with children the most: Noah’s Ark and David and Goliath.

There are many versions of Noah’s Ark, but Jerry Pinkney’s version just might be my favorite. Pinkney retells the story in simple yet evocative prose, and his luminous illustrations are worthy of closer examination. The diverse array of animals, the mighty storm, and the relief of the people at the end of their ordeal are told in fascinating detail.

Beatrice Schenk de Regniers wrote a masterful retelling of David and Goliath. It’s easy to understand why children respond to this particular story-the small triumphing over the mighty is something that they cheer. This is not a mere retelling of the account into simple words; de Regniers weaves psalm verses into the story, which add to the already rich language of the story.

In my next not-so-random-shelf posting on nonfiction, I'll look at children's books on comparative religion, Jewish holidays, the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, and picture book retellings of Hercules and Atalanta.

No comments: