Thursday, February 17

The Story of Joseph

There are certain stories, like Joseph and Noah, that have myriads of picture books devoted to them.   When I was working as a children's pastor a favorite part of my job was reading children's bible story books.  I made lists of good ones for parents, bought the best for the church collection and to be used in class rooms, and discarded those I felt certain didn't do the story justice.  There is such a range when it comes to Bible story books.  Some are terrible with artless cartoony illustrations and/or bad exegesis, but there are some gems out there too - artfully done, thoughtfully written and inspiring one's imagination to enter a story at a new level.  

So here are my two favorite on the story of Joseph.  (Joseph has come up in our history curriculum - so Jonah has been sleeping and playing in his 'Joseph coat' for the past couple days.  And we've been reading these books.)

The Coat of Many Colors by Jenny Koralek and illustrated by Pauline Baynes

The text of this book does the biblical account justice (though it condenses bits of the story and leaves something important out - we'll get to that).  The text also enters the story imaginatively, which is lovely, though it adds a fair amount (i.e. Joseph promises to never boast again if he gets out of the pit, there is detailed description of the coat...), but I'm quite comfortable with the imaginings.  I really enjoy the authors voice and overall the story is quite good.  There is only one major flaw with this retelling and that is that God isn't mentioned.  And really, it isn't  a problem until you reach the end and Joseph says "Of course I forgive you,... We have all learned many lessons since I first put on the coat of many colors.  And now, go and bring our dear father to me.  Then we can all share my good fortune in this land of plenty."  There is nothing wrong with what is said, but it feels like a joke without a punch line to me.  The point of the Joseph story is that even what Joseph's brothers meant for evil God meant for good; God, was caring for his people and providing for them.   She tells the story beautifully, but misses the 'big idea' of the biblical account.

But, despite one count against it, it is still a favorite because of the illustrations (and I think that a child who is getting good biblical teaching in other ways will be enriched by the book and with an older child it is good to see if they can find what is missing in a text like this.)  Pauline Baynes is best known as the original illustrator of Narnia (and I highly recommend finding a copy of Narnia with her brilliant illustrations!).  I love her illustrations.  They invite you into a story, but are simple, leaving lots of room for your imagination.  She has a fabulous sense of line and I love the repetition and simple shapes in her illustrations.  But the best way to share why I love them is to let you take a peak...
And my other favorite is Joseph by Brian Wildsmith.  I ask for this book when I was in high school.  I came across it in a catholic book store and my mom bought it and stashed it away for a Christmas gift. The detail in the illustration and the small bits of gold caught my eye and my imagination.  It is a book that you can spend hours with as the illustrations are highly detailed.  The story is very true to the biblical account, though it is condensed for young readers.  It is aimed at a bit older child than The Coat of Many Colors, but even at 16 months, Rowan has enjoyed looking at the illustrations.  We particularly enjoyed Joseph in conjunction with our history curriculum as Jonah could find so many Egyptian items that we have learned about in the past couple weeks.

1 comment:

Sue said...

The books are beautiful!! Amazing detail. Those books are great finds. Thanks for sharing them.