Name of Book: Naamah and the Ark at Night
Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Illustrator: Holly Meade
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Audience: 4 and up, intergenerational, women, new parents or mixed age choirs
Summary: Noah’s wife, Naamah, sings all through the night to the animals of the ark.
Literary elements at work in the story: In the opening double page illustration, the ark’s bow is heaving in storm churned waves. A mood of unease continues as Noah tosses in his sleep and “restless animals prowl…pace and roar and growl”. Enter, in the first silvered background and cut out silhouette, Noah’s wife, Naamah and the refrain “sings all through the night”. Bright watercolor collage images are shown of Naamah soothing the animals, her sleeping sons and their wives. The beasts and birds fall asleep with necks and tails curled around each other and a quiet calm is established. In a story that takes place at night, there is never a sense of flat blackness. My daughter, an illustration student at University of Kansas, pointed out that the silhouettes, night sky, bears and ravens are cut from washes of India ink and texture and shading is evident. Such detail is engrossing.
The rhythmic text is like a song itself. The ending author’s note explains that, while unnamed in the Bible, legend calls Noah’s wife, Naamah, meaning “great singer” and “because her deeds were pleasant”. “The form of Naamah and the Ark at Night was inspired by a poetic structure called a ghazal. The ghazal is a very old and extremely disciplined Arabic form…that requires each couplet to end in the same word, preceded by a rhyming word.” I am glad that I did not see the author’s note until after my first reading because I enjoyed going back through the text noting the repeating end word “night” and seeing all the rhyming words in formation. The last illustration of the ark level in the calm sea and the final line “Cradled by the song of night. Hush hush hush, good night” is a peaceful end to this beautiful lullaby.
Theological conversation partners: A midrash of the biblical story, this book could be used as a companion to reading about Noah and the ark. I can imagine a survey of stories in the Hebrew Scripture and New Testament that involve stormy seas. What is revealed about the divine in these stories? Playing with an ark and animals toy is often a first memory of engaging in a Bible story through hands on experience. It is interesting that the ark is an iconic nursery image because what do we do when older children wonder about those left in the rising waters? A less complicated truth is evident in the theological circle of giving blessings through God’s first blessing us. Naamah is singing prayers.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Looking at the first pages, what do you think it sounded like in the ark during the storm?
- Which animals did you like best and why?
- What do you do to feel calm at night?
- What is a lullaby? Children might chuckle over the image of Naamah soothing her grown sons and adults might engage in a discussion of calming sleep rituals…
- I think, as she sings, Naamah is blessing everything. What does it mean to give a blessing?
- Who do you bless?
- Who blesses you?
- Where do you see God acting in the story?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Robin Crawford.
Naamah and the Ark at Night by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.