CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 37. . . .May 27, 2016
In the well-known story of Noahís ark, water overcame the land, and the animals were forced to seek shelter elsewhere. This is the essence of Marianne Dubucís The Animalsí Ark. As the land recedes, Noahís ark becomes a place of refuge for animals big and small. Initially, the animals keep busy: the zebra counts her stripes, the lady bugs play dominos, the crocodile has his teeth cleaned, and the sheep play leap frog. Eventually, however, the journey grows tiresome and the animals become discouraged.
Dubucís simple retelling of a classic biblical story unfortunately contains no real highlights. Her understated approach leaves The Animalsí Ark bland and flat. Whilst there can be beauty in simplicity, this book is, indeed, too simplistic. Although colourful, the pencil crayon drawings lack depth and detail. Text considerateness, such as white space, makes for easier reading. In this book, however, there seems to be too much unfilled white space, and, again, this contributes to a lack of appeal. The book is intended for a young audience, but we believe that does not necessitate lesser quality storytelling and artwork.
There are many better illustrated versions of the tale of Noahís ark, just as there are many more interestingly retold versions of that same story. Young readers would derive more pleasure, entertainment, and information from some of those alternatives. The absence of detail in the written text and the artwork is obviously deliberate, but we think unnecessarily so. There is little plot development throughout Dubucís story. Similarly, there is little description or depiction of the setting and characters to make them more interesting. The illustrations have a child-like simplicity that some might find appealing, but that is likely a matter of taste. In terms of elements of quality, we find it difficult to identify any particularly strong illustrations. Indeed, the book appears somewhat like a childís complete colouring book with black outlines filled with pencil crayon shadings.
Despite the simplicity and lack of detail within Dubucís story, it is inappropriately long. We understand that a period of 40 days and 40 nights of rain would be wearisome and tedious, but Dubuc needed to insert engaging details to retain the readerís interest. There is much that can be done with The Animalsí Ark, but those potential educational experiences are borne of the dramatic story of Noahís ark rather than Dubucís retelling of that story.
Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He specialises in literature for children.
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