A Beau­ti­ful World

  • Review
By – February 22, 2024

Although there have been many pic­ture books about how the world came to be accord­ing to Jew­ish tra­di­tion, A Beau­ti­ful World is unique. Yael Gov­er and Paul Kor imag­ine the act of cre­ation in Gen­e­sis as a glo­ri­ous art project, with a child cre­at­ing the beau­ty of her envi­ron­ment. Read­ers are invit­ed to fol­low her untu­tored imag­i­na­tion through the process of discovery.

Paul Kor’s (1926 – 2001) images are rem­i­nis­cent of 1960s pop art, like the work of Peter Max, but they also cap­ture the naiveté of a child’s paint­ing. Plants and ani­mals pop­u­lat­ing the earth, sea, and sky are whim­si­cal, with human-like facial expres­sions and the range of tones avail­able in a box of pri­ma­ry-col­ored paints. Each two-page spread has a flap that opens to reveal more words and anoth­er sec­tion of the illus­tra­tion. The book’s for­mat mir­rors its theme: that ver­bal and visu­al cre­ativ­i­ty unfold gradually.

Gov­er cap­tures the excite­ment of a child real­iz­ing her poten­tial to bring ideas to life. The nar­ra­tor asks her­self, What’s miss­ing? What can I add? Which col­ors should I pick?” Any artist who’s con­front­ed a blank page will iden­ti­fy with these thoughts. Even if chil­dren aren’t famil­iar with the account of the world’s birth in the Bible, they will under­stand the mes­sage that cre­ation begins with empti­ness and cul­mi­nates with a final vision.

The nar­ra­tor becomes immersed in her art­work, going so far as to smell the flow­ers she has paint­ed, and to invite” the moon into her world. She asks ques­tions about which crea­tures will swim in the waves and how many land ani­mals will com­fort­ably fit into the com­po­si­tion, wel­com­ing the read­er to par­tic­i­pate in her cre­ation. The ques­tion Should I draw more?” will make sense to chil­dren who often won­der whether their own pic­ture is finished.

A sur­prise at the end of the book reit­er­ates that every artist is both an indi­vid­ual and a col­lab­o­ra­tor. Each crea­ture inhab­its its own niche, but also forms part of our largest com­mu­ni­ty: the world itself.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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