If you're looking for a little different take on the biblical story of Jonah and the big fish, Pudge Ate a Prophet by Dan and Damon Taylor is for you. The story is told through the eyes of the "big fish" (aptly named Pudge) who is "really big for his age." Most of the time other fish are pretty nice to Pudge, but sometimes they tease him about his size. One day a fish offers to play house with Pudge, then tells him he's the house. The other fish laugh, but Pudge does not. Instead, he decides to run away. That's how he meets Jonah.
Jonah, we learn, is a prophet - someone who speaks for God. But Jonah is running away, too. He doesn't want to do what God says. So God sends a big storm that upsets the ship Jonah is on. Knowing Jonah is to blame, the captain throws Jonah overboard. As he sinks lower and lower into the sea, Jonah thinks this is the end. That's when Pudge swallows Jonah.
God speaks to Pudge, saying he's going to use him for an important mission. Pudge is to keep Jonah in his belly for three days, as he swims to a place called Nineveh. Then Pudge should spit Jonah out onto dry land.
"As Pudge swam toward Nineveh, he finally understood why God had made him so large. 'I'm on an important mission for God!' This made Pudge feel good. 'God knows I'm a good swimmer, and He made me big enough to hold a prophet!' This made Pudge feel very good."Pudge does as God asks, and spits Jonah out when he reaches Nineveh. Pudge is proud to have helped the people of Nineveh - and he's proud he's big enough to handle God's mission.
What I Like: I love this retelling. It's different, being told from the fish's point of view, and the author's clearly know how to appeal to children. There is humor, but also great truth, throughout. The message is clear without being preachy; we know God made Pudge exactly the way he is, and God made him that way for a very special reason.
What I Dislike: I wish the illustrations in this book were a little stronger. Author and illustrator Damon Taylor has added some fun humor to the illustrations (like a parchment sign that God hangs from a fishing hook, telling Pudge what to do with Jonah, and another that thanks Pudge and says he was a big help), and while I know many kids love cartoon-like illustrations, these sometimes fall flat. For example, on the page explaining how the captain came to throw Jonah overboard, we see mostly a bland ocean, and only a small ship with tiny people on it. I wish the images were more compelling; this book deserves that!
Overall Rating: Very Good.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 4 - 8, but my two year old likes it, too.
Publishing Info: Kregel, 2004; ISBN: 082543868; hardback, $10.99