Today is the Birth­day of the World

Lin­da Heller; Ali­son Jay, illus.
  • Review
By – January 13, 2012
Today is the birth­day of the world. Today all of God’s crea­tures pass before God…” Thus begins this pic­ture book in which God asks a series of crea­tures if they have been the best that they could be. In each case, God points out a help­ful skill each crea­ture pos­sess­es which makes the world a bet­ter place (“my dear lit­tle ele­phant, did you move the downed tree, hap­py that I’d cho­sen you to keep the road clear? This year…were you the best lit­tle ele­phant that you could be?”). Final­ly, God asks a child the same ques­tion, and upon hear­ing that all of his crea­tures have been the best they could be, God is hap­py and declares that their good­ness is what makes the world a bet­ter place. Although clear­ly non-denom­i­na­tion­al, the ref­er­ence to self-reflec­tion on the occa­sion of the birth­day of the world ties in with the themes of the Jew­ish High Holy Days. Still, the sim­ple, repet­i­tive text teeters toward the didac­tic, and is redeemed only by inter­est gen­er­at­ed in dis­cov­er­ing what spe­cial con­tri­bu­tion each crea­ture makes to the world. What makes this book note­wor­thy are the charm­ing illus­tra­tions paint­ed in oil with the artist’s char­ac­ter­is­tic crack­le fin­ish. Sim­ple shapes define a land­scape of gen­tly rolling hills, bul­bous trees and deep blue seas. Fea­tured ani­mals have a whim­si­cal qual­i­ty enhanced by their tiny eyes and exag­ger­at­ed pro­por­tions. A rich, warm palette of gold, orange, green and blue brings a calm spir­i­tu­al feel to the whole while cel­e­brat­ing the good things that shared effort brings to all. Final­ly, a per­son­i­fied plan­et Earth plays host to God’s crea­tures while blow­ing out the can­dles on a tall pink cake. Giv­en the book’s visu­al charm, it is a bit unfor­tu­nate that the mes­sage feels so weighty. This is a per­fect world in which crea­tures large and small, ani­mal and human, are asked not to atone, but to be good all the time, and in this regard the book itself might have just missed the mark. Ages 3 – 6.
Teri Mark­son has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 18 years. She is cur­rent­ly the act­ing senior librar­i­an at the Val­ley Plaza Branch Library in North Hol­ly­wood, CA.

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