In the Begin­ning: The Art of Genesis

Chuck Fis­ch­er, pro­duc­er; Cur­tis Flow­ers, text; Bruce Fos­ter, paper engineer
  • Review
By – January 16, 2012
Old­er chil­dren and adults will mar­vel at this incred­i­ble pop-up art book for the mature read­er. Chuck Fischer’s lat­est vol­ume uses mag­nif­i­cent works by world famous artists on dis­play in myr­i­ad muse­ums and church­es to intel­li­gent­ly retell and ana­lyze the dra­mat­ic sto­ries that open the Bible. The vision is that of the artist inspired by the Book of Gen­e­sis, rather than the cler­gy­man, as the sub-title hon­est­ly announces. Fis­ch­er choos­es sen­sa­tion­al bible tales: Cre­ation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Tow­er of Babel, Jacob’s Lad­der and Joseph. After sum­ma­riz­ing these famil­iar plots, author Cur­tis Flow­ers dis­cuss­es the ideas behind these indeli­ble sto­ries and their pow­er­ful, wrath­ful, covenant­i­ng God. Flow­ers briefly pars­es cre­ation, expul­sion, divine promis­es, angels, dreams, broth­er­ly rival­ry, betray­al and rela­tion­ships that bind us. The sound, inter­est­ing text is ecu­meni­cal rather than Jew­ish and includes Chris­t­ian terms in its analy­sis. The art, on can­vas, on glass, in sculp­ture, draws read­ers to the book. Large two-page spreads pop up incred­i­bly stur­dy, intri­cate, high designs that sym­bol­ize the nar­ra­tive under dis­cus­sion; tiny books inside tiny books in the low­er cor­ners con­tain the text. The engi­neer­ing and the artis­tic vision are won­drous show stop­pers. Incor­po­rat­ing can­vas­es from Bosch, Brueghel, Cranach, Domenichi­no, Michelan­ge­lo, Raphael, Rubens, Tiepo­lo and many oth­ers, Fis­ch­er deliv­ers a glo­ri­ous book, cer­tain to stim­u­late dis­cus­sion, to encour­age guess­ing the artist and to offer a joy­ous return to youth in manip­u­lat­ing the pages.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

Discussion Questions