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Jessica Ptomey, a longtime fan of children's author Tomie dePaola, reviews a new edition of a Bible classic.

On March 30th of this year, beloved children’s author, Tomie dePaola, passed away, leaving many of his readers, young and old, saddened by the realization that the prolific writer and illustrator’s body of work had come to an end. De Paola’s published books span over 50 years, and many fans have long-searched eBay and used bookstores for copies of various hard-to-find, out-of-print titles.

This might have been the fate of Noah and the Ark, originally published by Winston Press in 1983, had not Magnificat (Ignatius Press) released it this year in a beautiful, hardcover second edition. I received a complimentary copy to review for CatholicMom.com readers, and it would have been a joy to sit and read it all by myself. However, I did have a five-year-old super-fan enjoying the story with me. He can’t read yet, but he immediately recognized the iconic artwork of one of his favorite authors.

noah and the ark

Noah and the Ark shares many attributes in common with de Paola’s other Bible stories. His writing is narrative and accessible to children, but it doesn’t water down the stories from Scripture or talk down to children. His writing and illustrations would never be described by older children as “babyish.” There’s a realism to the expressions on faces and structure of objects in his artwork that convey the truth of their existence as he has represented them; children are compelled to believe that these are real people and real stories.

Unfortunately, “Noah’s Ark” is one of those children’s Bible stories that has been adapted into various rather silly renditions or caricatures over the years. Even if the writing of the story is not too oversimplified, much of the artwork in many of these retellings makes Noah’s family and the animals into cartoon depictions of a zoo party on a boat. DePaola’s version is quite the opposite of these types of depictions. There’s a seriousness and gravity to his story. In fact, I was quite impacted by the visual on one two-page spread in the middle of the book — nothing but water.

noah and the ark center spread

The vital truth of this story is told so well: the world was full of sin; “Noah did what God said”; God saved Noah and his family; God promised never to destroy the world with a flood again. Much of the specific details from the story in Genesis are included too. The story is told beautifully and simply, not simplistically.

DePaola's writing is narrative and accessible to children, but it doesn’t water down the stories from Scripture or talk down to children. #catholicmom

I’m quite happy that Magnificat has reprinted this lovely book; and I’m sure that I am not alone in the hope that this is only the beginning of dePaola’s out-of-print treasures being brought back into circulation again for many more generations to enjoy.

Copyright 2020 Jessica Ptomey
Image created in Canva Pro.
Images from Noah and the Ark courtesy of Ignatius Press.