Visu­al Arts

All the World Prais­es You!

  • Review
By – March 29, 2018

In Debra Band’s new aleph-bet pic­ture book, each let­ter of the Hebrew alpha­bet is accom­pa­nied by a bib­li­cal quote about the nat­ur­al world, along with an orig­i­nal work of art cel­e­brat­ing God’s gifts of cre­ation. In the author’s note, Band explains the inspi­ra­tion behind, and pur­pose of her work. The birth of her grand­daugh­ter, the desire to teach the aleph-bet to young read­ers, a sense of envi­ron­men­tal aware­ness, and enthu­si­asm for the tra­di­tion of illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts all cul­mi­nat­ed in her pro­duc­tion of this attrac­tive vol­ume. While the mul­ti­ple ele­ments of All the World Prais­es You! are all wor­thy of atten­tion, they some­times fail to cohere in a uni­fied whole.

The major­i­ty of the book reads from right to left, but when flipped around and read from left to right, the book offers addi­tion­al ques­tions and obser­va­tions. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this sup­ple­men­tal mate­r­i­al is dif­fi­cult to read — the text is much small­er than in the rest of the book. More seri­ous­ly, Band could have ben­e­fit­ed from pro­fes­sion­al edit­ing. While Band con­veys great enthu­si­asm for the spir­i­tu­al­i­ty of the uni­verse, the range of her com­men­tary is dis­tract­ing and some­times min­i­mal­ly rel­e­vant. She includes ref­er­ences to the Hub­ble Tele­scope; the bar­ri­er reefs of Israel, Aus­tralia, and Belize; and con­stel­la­tions seen in the sky on the night her grand­daugh­ter was born. Rather than clar­i­fy­ing or illu­mi­nat­ing her point, this wealth of unre­lat­ed mate­r­i­al obscures it.

Band is an accom­plished artist, but her choice to include a lit­tle bit of every­thing would have been more appro­pri­ate in an anthol­o­gy of her work. Nonethe­less, her illus­tra­tions are grace­ful and dream­like encoun­ters with nature. Like her sup­ple­men­tary text, they rep­re­sent a broad range of artis­tic influ­ences. Some are clear­ly inspired by medieval man­u­scripts, such as the orig­i­nal Perek Shi­ra. Sev­er­al have a New Age fla­vor. Oth­ers refer to Japan­ese art. Each pic­ture also includes a hid­den” hon­ey­bee and dahlia flower, in ref­er­ence to the author’s first name and the name of her granddaughter.

All the World Prais­es You! is rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers ages 12 and up, as well as for adults inter­est­ed in a point of entry to Jew­ish spir­i­tu­al­i­ty through envi­ron­men­tal consciousness.

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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