Posts Tagged ‘Caldecott Medal’

Book Review: Animals of the Bible illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop

January 8th, 2016

Books are about words, right?

Of course, right.

Or at least that’s what I’ve always thought.

While I read picture books, I really only care about the words.

While I’ve been reading picture books for years, I’ve typically only cared about the words.

But after reading Baby Read-Aloud Basics, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the pictures, especially when reading out loud to Tirzah Mae. Then, I read Donald Crews’ Freight Train (recommended by Baby Read-Aloud Basics) and was absolutely enthralled by the illustrations. The library copy I’d borrowed featured a Caldecott Honor Medallion – which inspired me to look at the Caldecott Award.

I discovered that the Caldecott Medal is given by the American Library Association (ALA) to the illustrator of an outstanding picture book.

Okay, okay. If the ALA considers illustrations important enough to give an award for them, maybe I should pay a little bit of attention to them.

And what better way, I figured, than to read through the Caldecott Award winners?

Dorothy P. Lathrop received the very first Caldecott award for her Animals of the Bible, published in 1937.

My library’s copy had to be retrieved from storage, and I was interested to see the penciled-in note on the front flyleaf indicating that water damage had been officially noted 9/17/70.

The text of Lathrop’s Animals of the Bible consists entirely of passages from the King James Version of the Bible, all of them pertaining to animals in some fashion. Each story (with a few exceptions) is accompanied by a full-page black-and-white illustration.

Reading this (and looking at the pictures) reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder, looking at the pictures in Pa’s big Bible and in his animal book.

I couldn’t help think of the great differences in picture book illustrations since 1937. Perhaps the easiest to note is the change from black-and-white to full-color illustrations – but even more striking is the variation in level of detail. It certainly seems that recent illustrations tend towards the cartoonish, with spare details. But the further back one looks, the more detailed the illustrations tend to be.

Lathrop’s illustrations are highly realistic montages of multiple animals in distinct environments along with carefully drawn plants. They are delightful (apart from the unfortunate addition of halos on Jesus and the angels, a convention I rather detest.)

I can see a preschool or early elementary child enjoying these illustrations, although I think said child would likely be overwhelmed by the King James English of the text. Then again, I’ve never been much of an illustration person, and I may be translating my own tastes to a child – if you can find this book at the library, I’d find it there and try it out on your child before buying.

Rating: 3-4 stars
Category: Children’s picture book
Synopsis: A collection of “animal” passages from the King James Bible along with striking full-page black and white illustrations.
Recommendation: Children might be interested in the illustrations, not sure how easily they’ll get the King James English.

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