Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Noah's Ark

by Peter Spier
1977 / 48 pages

What author and illustrator Peter Spier gives us here is a beautifully illustrated, nearly wordless account of the Flood, with only three of the 48 pages containing text. There are two biblical quotations, one to start the book from Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” The second ends the book, and is taken from Genesis 9:20: “… and he planted vineyard.” In addition, one page is given to an English translation of a 400-year-old poem about the Flood by Dutchman Jacobus Revius.

The rest of the book is filled with seemingly simple, but incredibly detailed pictures of Noah and his family as they build the Ark, bring in the animal pairs, and feed and care for them inside. Some of the detail is amusing – two dodos are shown waddling their way to safety (at least for a few thousand years). But we also see, in a series of panels, the floodwaters overtaking the many animals that were left behind. This is no cutesy, sanitized account!

I find most Bible storybooks quite problematic, as they so often mangle the biblical texts. What I appreciate about Spier’s account is that, because it is wordless, it actually requires that you go to the Bible to read the original account. So it is not a Bible storybook meant to replace Bible reading, but is instead a Bible study book, meant to spur further thinking on God’s Word.

Americans who like Noah’s Ark will also appreciate Spier’s We the People, a picture book he made celebrating the creation of the US constitution. It contains the text of the constitution (but only 26 amendments, as the book was written before the 27th was passed), a short account of how it was drafted, and pages upon pages of pictures showing how this document has shaped the country over the last 200 years. Most picture books are intended for children, but this is one of those rare ones that an adult will readily appreciate too.

You can pick up Peter Spier's Noah's Ark at Amazon.com here and Amazon.ca here.
One of the gorgeous illustrations: Noah and his sons hard at work, keeping the Ark clean.


  1. Hi Jon,
    I don't normally like to be critical but this time I think I may have a better alternative to suggest. I find the pictures in this book are indeed gorgeous as you have suggested and a real pleasure to look at all the details but is it really true to scripture? I think it makes a bit of a joke out of some things taking away from God's amazing work that was done. It implies I think that Noah had to collect or sort through all the animals - there are way too many there. and also seems to show Noah closing the door??
    The two books that I really like are "Noah's Ark: Thinking Outside the Box" and, for the really little ones, "Fox Walked Alone" is also a great little read. They are worth looking at!!
    Lisa :)

    1. Thanks Lisa - I've come across "Noah's Ark: Thinking Outside the Box" and really enjoyed it as well. I hadn't heard of "Fox Walked Alone" and will have to check it out.

      As for this one being true to Scripture, I will have to take another look at Spier's door closing picture, as Scripture does tell us that it was God Who shut them in (Gen. 7:16). But most of the details are simply unknown, which is why I do appreciate how Spier, by leaving the text out, seems intent on us going to the Bible to check out the authoritative version.

      p.s. Another very good one is "The True Story of Noah's Ark" which we reviewed here: http://www.reallygoodreads.com/2011/04/true-story-of-noahs-ark.html

    2. I have actually also read 'The True Story of Noah's Ark'. We bought it for our church library because of your review. (we have bought many others for the same reason :) ) Anyways that particular one I found quite funny that over and over you find phrases like...'it was probably like...', 'it might have happened that...', 'it could have been...'. I found that humorous to call it the 'true' story and then have to guess at most of what they put in the book. It bothered me :) Seemed to me that if you are going to call it the true story then you should leave out the stuff that might not be true and stick to the facts.
      But enough critical remarks - all of the books do have something good to offer in making our kids familiar with the Bible stories - I am just quite picky :)
      Lisa :)

  2. It is interesting, our different expectations for books - one reason I liked that book is all the "probably"s and "maybe"s because they were clear about what was, and wasn't fact. Too many "biblical" storybooks are imagination presented as fact. I like thinking about how things may have been - I like going on imaginative forays - but I always want the author to be clear when he is departing from biblical fact.