cover image Vessel of Promises: A Bookish Fable

Vessel of Promises: A Bookish Fable

Stephen Cowan, illus. by Ed Young. Philomel, $17.99 (26p) ISBN 978-0-525-51387-2

Cowan reimagines the story of Noah’s Ark, replacing the character of Noah with an old woman who foresees a flood. She brings into her house “all the promises/ that she could think to find./ She gathered them in pairs/ so none were left behind.” Young’s (The Weather’s Bet) dark, abstract spreads, superimposed on striations of boldly textured color, hint at hollow-eyed, beaked birds; winged insects; and other creatures. During the flood, the woman appears as a shadowy silhouette, and the animal forms are picked out in brightly lit lines amid layered backgrounds. When the rain ends and dry land appears, Cowan asks, “Can you guess what promises the old woman had protected?” Despite earlier cues, they’re not creatures—they’re books, and she builds a library to hold them: “if you look in your town,/ the vessel’s waiting there for you.” Though the leap from timeless fable to real-world library feels sudden, readers will grasp the idea that books contain promises of enlightenment and knowledge that must be preserved. Ages 4–8. [em](Nov.) [/em]