Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Patsy ponders Noah's Ark

I have been patiently working, in my spare time, on a wall hanging for my youngest grandchild (now aged 5) for some years – I chose a pattern by the renowned Danish creator, Gerda Bengtsson, her Noak’s Ark. I have really enjoyed doing it and am pleased to think I am on the downhill slope now with it….

I have been wondering over the years how many of today’s children are familiar with the story, and this led recently to some research on the topic. A quick look at the Amazon UK website showed that many Noah’s Ark books, DVDs, audiobooks, and even toys are for sale there. So to make sure Tom knows the story when I eventually finish the work, I ordered a copy of each of the Lucy Cousins and Peter Spier picture books.

These are both beautiful books, which would be valuable contributions to your school or home libraries.

Lucy Cousins has used her instantly recognisable simplistic illustrative techniques in her work (Walker Books, first published 1993, my copy a paperback published in 2006, ISBN 978-0-7445-9972-5). She retells the Bible story in a simple fashion and provides charming endpapers with many familiar animals, in pairs of course – but no distinctively Australian animals, unfortunately.
Peter Spier has provided a much more detailed and considered book (Dragonfly Books, 1997, my copy a paperback, ISBN 978-0-440-40693-8), almost textless. But the illustrations are very complex and provide much food for thought. And yes, there are examples of Australian fauna as well! The problems faced by Noah and his family were obviously many in dealing with so many animals – feeding, watering, space allocation, and even dealing with the inevitable waste products are all tackled.
Finished with the books, I looked at the lists of toys for sale on eBay Australia – lots of Noah’s Arks there too! I wondered how many homes actually have a Noah’s Ark set in the toddler’s toybox in this day and age, but judging from Amazon and eBay, there must be quite a few.

Then I thought about Noah’s Ark and the Tasmanian public library – yes, there are plenty of records for Noah’s Ark on the catalogue. Most have been catalogued as picture books or fiction, though there are several DVDs in the Junior collection as well.

So do we look at stories like that of Noah as fiction, religion, or mythology? The Tasmanian public library catalogue and the state school catalogues have many records for books of Bible stories as non-fiction, classified as religion, at 220.9505 – but those about Noah’s Ark alone mainly seem to be catalogued as fiction. Books of mythology, based on religions other than Christianity, such as Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, stories from Ancient Greece and Rome, are mainly catalogued under the Dewey system as 398.2.

Is it time we revisited the way libraries see Bible stories as opposed to stories from other religions and cultures? And what about bookshops? Does your local bookshop display Bible stories as religion, fiction, or myths and legends?

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