Naamah and the Ark at Night

Susan Camp­bell Bar­to­let­ti; Hol­ly Meade, illus.
  • Review
By – January 10, 2012
No, don’t sigh, anoth­er Noah’s Ark! This love­ly pic­ture book is a fresh take using a dif­fer­ent poet­ic style to teach young read­ers some­thing new while they bask in a famil­iar old Bible tale. Here, the point of view of the tra­di­tion­al sto­ry comes from Noah’s wife. We learn that a schol­ar in 1941 list­ed 103 pos­si­ble names for her. Rab­binic leg­ends parse some of these; this ver­sion rests on the leg­end that Naamah can mean a great singer.’ Naamah sings at night to com­fort ani­mals, hus­band, sons, and spous­es. The text deliv­ers the night and her voice in the poet­ic struc­ture of a ghaz­al, a strict Ara­bic form where every line ends in the same word, while the rhyming is inter­nal and changes with each cou­plet. The poet­ry reads beau­ti­ful­ly. The author’s choice of vocab­u­lary paints dra­mat­ic word pic­tures of night in a storm. The rhyming words pro­vide col­or­ful choic­es for ani­mal descrip­tions and actions. The singing is com­fort­ing to all, not only the denizens of the ark, but read­ers who might fear the dark. The illus­tra­tions are water­col­or col­lage. The art, in col­or or in sil­hou­ette, has dra­ma and depth to match the words. Naamah is the coun­ter­point to the edgi­ness; she is warm and calm, a plump matron, sooth­ing to all. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for its art and its intro­duc­tion of a new poet­ic form to read­ers age 4 – 7.

Read­ing Guide

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