A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is an unrelentingly horrific portrayal of what it might have been like on the ark: many bodies, brutal behavior. The author raises complex issues of morality and faith, and provides no answers. Those with strong religious beliefs may find the portrait of Noah and his family as fanatics bordering on lunatics offensive.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The voyage of Noah's Ark is related by the inhabitants, both human and animal, but primarily by Timna, an imaginary daughter of Noah. The story begins with the rains, and soon a giant wave sweeps over the earth. But not everyone drowns right away, and Ham and Shem must spend their time beating survivors away from the ship, an act that troubles Timna and her younger brother, Japheth.
Before they leave the family kidnaps Zilla to be a wife to 12-year-old Japheth, neither of whom are happy about it. So when they find a young boy and his infant sister clinging to the stern of the ship, saving them seems the only thing they can do to rebel against the horrific godliness of the rest of the family. But keeping them secret among the animals in the bowels of the ship becomes more and more difficult, as both humans and animals become increasingly sick in mind and body during their lengthy confinement.
Is it any good?
This is not your children's Bible stories. Our predominant cultural images of the Noah's ark story have always been of the gentle lions with the adorable lambs, all in pairs, on a clean ship with good people for a miraculous journey. But author Geraldine McCaughrean brings it to life as a real horror show. Until the end, this story is one of unrelenting horror and degradation of mind, body, and spirit, and the author pulls no punches.
The fetid mountains of dung, the fleas and lice and mice (none of which are just a pair for long), the noise and filth and especially smell -- all are rendered vividly. But McCaughrean goes far beyond this undeniably realistic picture to examine the psychological toll exacted upon the younger human passengers, forced to see the deaths of dozens and know that millions more have died. This is a tough read, and not for the squeamish, but could push teen readers to think more deeply about familiar Bible stories.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the realism of this view of life on the Ark. What would it be like to have creatures of every sort imprisoned together in a small space for months? How could they be fed and cared for? How would the humans survive? Is there any way that Shem can be seen as a good man, worthy of saving while the rest of humanity perishes?