Sarah Laughs by Jacqueline Jules does an excellent job making the story of Sarah kid-friendly and accessible.
Jules begins by explaining that "thousands and thousands of years ago," a beautiful girl named Sarah lived. Everyone stopped to look as Sarah gathered water at the well. Her eyes sparkled "like water in the sunshine," and when she laughed, "the whole world" clapped hands with joy over the sound. Sarah married a man named Abraham. He was different from most of the other people Sarah knew because "he worshipped one invisible God who was too powerful to be made into a simple statue of wood or stone." Together, Sarah and Abraham bring others to God.
One day, Abraham heard God's voice. God wants them to leave their home, so Sarah, Abraham, and many others live as nomads ("people who wander from one place to another searching for food and water"). Later, God promises to give the land the couple are now traveling to Abraham and Sarah's children. Another night, Abraham has a dream in which God says Abraham and Sarah's ancestors will be too numerous to count. Sarah's delighted to hear this, "but she did not laugh." Sarah doesn't laugh much anymore. Her heart longs for a child.
As Sarah grows older, she fears she will never have a baby, so she tells Abraham he should take a second wife. "In those days, many men had more than one wife." Sarah suggests her servant Hagar. Hagar bears a son, but Sarah's heart is still sad.
Years passed and Sarah's hair turned grey. "Her bright smile still made the sun wink, but she did not laugh." Then one day, three visitors show up. They are actually angels, and they predict that in a year's time, Sarah will have a baby.
"Sarah put her hands on her wrinkled cheeks. A tinkling sound bubbled from deep inside her and it skipped through the air. 'I am too old,' she laughed. 'And my husband is too old!'"
Nonetheless, Sarah soon gives birth to a son, whom she names Isaac, which means "laughter." Sarah laughed and "the whole world clapped hands and laughed with her."
What I Like: It isn't often you run across a biblically-themed picture book that's as beautifully written as this one. Jules, with her poetic turn of phrase, has done an excellent job making this story interesting to young children and adults alike. The illustrations by Natascia Ugliano are a perfect companion to the text; her gorgeous watercolors are full of rich hues and lively faces.
What I Dislike: Nothing.
Overall Rating: Excellent.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 9 - 12, but my two year old loves this book, too.
Publishing Info: Kar-Ben Publishing, 2008; ISBN: 0822572168; hardback, $17.95.
Special Info: You may wish to visit the author's website.