Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jonah's Whale

Jonah is one Bible story publishers choose to reprint over and over and over again. Just a quick glance through our reviews of books on this topic, and you'll see the offerings are abundant. Still, new versions of the story are released every year. This year, Jonah's Whale by Eileen Spinelli is one such offering.

What struck me first about this book was its lovely art by Giuliano Ferri. There's a lot of realism, but just a touch of whimsy. For example, the first illustration in the book looks a lot like an underwater photograph of a whale; the lighting is filtered and the blues run from nearly black to nearly white. But the artist gives the whale a face that looks smiling.

The story itself begins not with the Bible or with Jonah, but with a whale. He is lonely, so God gives him a family. He is hungry, so God sends him food. Whale sings a "joyful song" given by God. Whale is happy and romps through the sea. Then one night it begins raining. A storm comes. The whale overhears men on a boat yelling at each other. Suddenly the man Jonah jumps overboard. "And God said to Whale, 'Save the man Jonah,'" so Whale swallows him.
"Whale listened for God's voice, but all he heard were the trembling prayers of the man Jonah as he sloshed around inside. Whale swam carefully...patiently...all that night and the next day...He listened and listened for God to tell him what to do next. But...not a word. Whale was troubled. Where was God? What about the man in his belly?

By the second day he allowed himself a few gentle complaints: 'Why cannot the man Jonah swim on his own?' "I am beginning to feel very queasy.' "It will not be my fault if I throw up!'...By the third night Whale was feeling very discouraged...And so Whale started to sing the song God had given him...Then - a whisper in the music - God's voice came."
The whale spits Jonah onto the beach. "Many years passed, but Whale never forgot the man Jonah...And the man Jonah never forgot the Whale..."

What I Like: There are definite things to admire about this book, especially if you ignore the title and realize this story is not what you might expect. My children and I both love the illustrations. And I love the little lesson in waiting to hear from God. For children who already know the story of Jonah and the big fish, this could be a nice addition to the home library.
What I Dislike: The weak ending surprised me. I expected a little bit more than just the whale and Jonah not forgetting each other. Also, I have mixed feelings about books like this that are based on biblical stories, but veer pretty far from the original intent.
Overall Rating: Good.
Age Appeal: 3 - 7
Publishing Info: Eerdmans; 2012; ISBN: 978-0802853820; hardback, 32 pgs., $16.00.Link
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1 comment:

Janice said...

I found you through Stephanie who was on UBP. As a Christian who has taught and was a librarian I love your site. Keep up the great work.