THE DONKEY AND THE GOLDEN LIGHT

John Speirs, Author, Gill Speirs, Author , illus. by John Speirs. Abrams $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4812-9

Though John Speirs's (The Little Boy's Christmas Gift ) luxurious, gilt-accented paintings are an art aficionado's dream, readers will probably puzzle over the tangled text, which posits a parallel between the life of Jesus and that of a donkey. On the night that Jesus is born, a donkey outside the stable gives birth, to an animal that the gathered shepherds name Bethlehem. Although the Holy Family and Bethlehem leave the stable together, their paths soon diverge. Bethlehem is stolen by vagabonds, then sold in turn to merchants, to a farmer and finally to a group of drovers. Jesus and Bethlehem cross paths once again in Jerusalem as they both approach the end of their time on earth. Focusing on the religiously symbolic beast of burden, Gill Speirs opens the door to an inventive interpretation of Scripture. However, her technique of sometimes employing straightforward storytelling and other times adopting a style of cumulative verse proves cumbersome and confusing. Readers are left to assume much here, as Jesus is not mentioned in the bulk of the text, though he appears in the background of the artwork (preaching, praying, talking with children, celebrating the wedding at Cana). Throughout, the elegant compositions consistently delight, depicting biblical events in a Netherlandish style inspired chiefly by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. For those who wish to know more about the art, a final spread contains a series of detailed illustration references and a particularly informative artist's note. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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