Holly Meade uses watercolor collage (which matches this story of water perfectly) to tell Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s lullaby story of Naamah, Noah’s wife. We learn in her fascinating author’s note the mystery of her name and also about the ghazal, the poetic structure Bartoletti followed to write this poem. So, a story from the Old Testament is interpreted in an Arabic poetic form. I like that. I like the Noah story because so many cultures and religions have a deluge story, making it nearly universal.
Let me give you a taste of the text:
“As rain falls over the ark at night,
As water swirls in the dark of night,
As thunder crashes the seams of night,
As Noah tosses in dreams of night,
As restless animals prowl at night,
As they pace and roar and growl at night,
Naamah sings all through the night.”
That is some lovely stuff.
Now, let’s look at these illustrations. Watercolor and scissors and ink come together to give the reader the feel of a little boat, rocked by storms and filled with pairs of animals. Noah is not the star here—he is snoring in bed while Naamah sings to the animals, lulling them to sleep. Meade changes up the spreads—some are full color, some are grey and white silhouettes, fully bled to the edges, showing the deep night. One, of the galaxy, is cut paper, watercolor and paint that looks like white-out. Each animal, even the humans, is shown with its partner and care has been taken to differentiate between the female and male when appropriate (lions, humans). The paper is cut with soft rounded cuts—not overly fussy, but with enough detail to make each animal completely recognizable. Naamah is nice and round herself…suggesting a well-fed grandma.
Here is a book that needs to be read aloud to be totally appreciated. Bartoletti’s poem, subtle and restrained, is the perfect precursor to sleep.
And, not to be too personal, I read this to my book group on Sunday night, and it got the “I-need-a-baby-shower-gift” seal of approval.
So, yes, this is a Bible story and any bit of religion may make some squeamish, but there have been quite a few Bible stories over the years that have caught the attention of the committee. The illustrations complement and extend the story with little redundancy and the lullaby is magical. Meade has won an honor before. Is it time for more recognition?