cover image ON NOAH'S ARK


Jan Brett, . . Putnam, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-24028-7

Brett (The Mitten), long celebrated for her lush depictions of animals in vibrant, often exotic settings, turns her focus to the popular Bible story—and omits the biblical framework. In a childlike, pleasingly spare text, Noah's grandchild describes some of the preparations made to protect her family and the world's animals from the impending rains. Soon, "The animals go in two by two./ Big animals thump and bump onto the ark..../ Small animals squeeze in." During the 40 days and 40 nights, "the ark rocks back and forth like a giant cradle," lulling its passengers to sleep; at last the vessel makes land, and "two by two the animals look for new homes." There's no mention of God or his relationship to Noah, nor any reason given for the Flood. The art, however, is characteristically striking. In her signature style, Brett depicts a story-within-the-story via smaller side panel artwork (she executes her work on papyrus, to recall the antiquity of the story). On each panel, a keyhole-like window in the shape of a different animal allows readers to view some of the action. In the main compositions, realistic-looking creatures of varying size and hue create a colorfully jumbled menagerie. While Brett leaves it to presiding adults to place the tale in its spiritual and/or storytelling context, her accomplished visuals should fully engage young readers. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)