cover image The Angel and the Donkey

The Angel and the Donkey

Katherine Paterson. Clarion Books, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-395-68969-1

In her informative afterword to this sprightly retelling of a story from the Book of Numbers, two-time Newbery Medalist Paterson explains that the tale is notable in that it is one of two in the Bible that concerns a talking animal; and that, unlike most Old Testament entries, it is not told from the perspective of the Jews. The author keeps her fluid, narrative tone appealingly lighthearted as she relays the frustration of Balak, king of Moab, who calls on the soothsayer Balaam to lay a curse on Moses and the Israelites who, under his leadership, are seeking to cross Moab on their way out of Egypt. Seduced by the promised reward of riches, Balaam ignores an angel's command not to curse the Israelites ""for the Lord has blessed them."" But the greedy soothsayer soon recognizes the error of his ways. Rendered in watercolor, tempera and gouache, Koshkin's (illustrator of Stolen Thunder and Atlanta's Race) dramatic, vibrantly hued paintings feature an intriguing range of ancient symbols and motifs. Kids will be especially charmed by Balak's talking donkey, who emerges a hero while many of the human characters are decidedly asinine. Ages 6-10. (Mar.)