Wednesday, March 4, 2009

At Jerusalem's Gate: Poems of Easter

At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems of Easter is a truly unusual retelling of the story of Easter. The author, Nikki Grimes, begins with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and ending with the time shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. Each part of the story is told in verse, some rhyming and some not, with the point of view of a different character or a different scene for each poem. The author includes an introduction to each poem, telling how and why she chose that particular character to tell his/her part of the story.

She uses such well-known characters as Judas, Caiaphas (head of the religious counsel), Pilate, Simon (who carried Jesus’ cross), Peter (who denied knowing Christ), the criminals who were crucified with Jesus, Malchus (a servant of Caiaphas), Mary the mother of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, and witnesses who saw Jesus after his resurrection. She even has two poems about inanimate objects, the tree whose wood was used for the cross and the sun that refused to shine when Jesus took his last breath. She includes scenes from the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Crucifixion.

The text is thought-provoking in both its set-up and its language. The author says it best when she writes, “Much of the Biblical story of Easter makes us squirm, so we rush ahead to the good stuff: the resurrection, the ascension, and the celebration that followed. However, the celebrations is hollow unless we pause to consider the price Jesus paid to win the world invitations to the party, and that price included suffering on the way to the cross.”

There is a page at the end of the book that gives Biblical references for all the poems.

David Frampton's wood-cut illustrations remind me of stained glass, providing images that “illuminate” the text.

What I Like: Everything.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: The publisher suggests grades 5-8 as the targeted audience for this book. I think this age group would enjoy the book on their own, but I think younger children, maybe grades 3-4, would enjoy it as well, if shared with parents and/or older siblings.

Publisher Info: Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, 2005; ISBN: 0802851835: Hardcover: $20.00.

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