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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Ark, the Reed, & the Fire Cloud (My Review)

The Ark, the Reed, & the Fire Cloud
by Jenny Cote
448 pages
(review by me)

Kiddo reviewed this book earlier today - click here to read his thoughts. Fair warning ... this review is long. But since it is a children's book I wanted to give you a bit more information so you can decide if this is a book you might want to give to a child in your life.

*** About the Book ***

This book is the first in a planned series called THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF MAX & LIZ. The story follows two main characters, a Scottie dog named Max and a small black cat named Liz. They are among the animals called by God to Noah's ark. Animals all around the world are being called; the first part of the story covers their journeys. The next big section covers the time the animals spend aboard the ark. The last portion shows what happens once they finally make landfall.

*** What I Liked ***
  • This book was lots of fun for kiddo. I mean, what child doesn't like a story told by animals? And because kiddo is very familiar with the story of Noah's ark, he really identified with what happened in the story.
  • It reinforces the concept of faith and the fact that we must continually rely on God and not on ourselves. It was a wonderful Christian story to read together, and there was nothing objectionable in the content. I'd be happy to read more books like this with kiddo.
  • The way the animals get to the ark and the way the ark "adapts" to their needs are both lots of fun. The author's note at the end clearly states that this stuff is not in the Bible but that something like it "could" have happened - we just don't know.
  • Many of the characters speak with accents. Since I read this aloud, I did my best to get the accents correct - kiddo loved it. (Of course, hubby walked in once when I was reading and he hasn't stopped teasing me about my very poor Scottish accent ... that was embarrassing to say the least.)
  • It is part of a series, so there will be more books with the characters kiddo loved that he can look forward to reading.
*** What I Didn't Like ***

Although I really liked this book for kiddo's sake, there are some things that bothered me as an adult reader.
  • The writing is ... ok. I'd like to point out that sometimes it is perfectly acceptable for a character to simply "say" something; they don't always have to "sigh expressively" or whatever. That got a bit irritating after a while. Another thing about the writing (and this is the same complaint many of us had with Stephenie Meyer's books) is the repetitive use of descriptions. I get that Liz is a petite black cat but do we have to repeat it every time we talk about Liz? Hmm, then again, kids like repetition so many it works for that.
  • The book is VERY adamant in promoting Christianity. My preference is for more subtlety but the bluntness was good for kiddo; there were no gray areas for him to be confused by, unless they were put there intentionally. I don't know how an older child would feel about this - would he feel he was being preached at? All I can say is that it bothered me but kiddo didn't mind it at all.
  • This next complaint is simply my opinion and reflects the fact that I don't really like reading books with animals as the characters: Dogs and cats don't have arms, and they can't hug each other. The same goes for lots of other creatures. Kids love that stuff but it drives me crazy. I know, it IS a children's book after all - like I said, this is simply my opinion.
*** Additional Thoughts ***

This part of my review includes some spoilers however if you plan to read this with your child I suggest that you do read this section. If you plan to read this on your own, you might like the surprises so feel free to skip to the next section.
  • There is some death in this book. The wise old goat dies of old age, the people on the earth (not in the ark) die in the flood, and the two main characters die temporarily (more on that later). Kiddo got teary eyed over the goat. The book is not all about death though - in fact, it is mostly light-hearted and fun. I just think that parents need to be aware of what their kids are reading so they can deal with any emotions their kids may experience. This book raises some very important issues - definitely a good way to start a conversation with a child.
  • The really cool snake that you meet on the ark turns out to be Satan. The snake's name is Charlie and he befriends one of the main characters. Kiddo and I really liked Charlie. It was only after we knew him for quite a while that I started to suspect who he really was. I clued kiddo in and he was NOT HAPPY - Charlie was one of his favorites. Charlie's actions get decidedly different later in the story so kiddo did eventually understand, but it led to a big discussion of how sometimes things are not what they seem to be. (As a side note, kiddo loved Charlie in part because of his name - Charlie was kiddo's favorite character on the show LOST ... and we all know what happened to THAT Charlie. Kiddo wasn't happy then either.)
*** In the End ***

Despite the flaws I pointed out I would definitely recommend this book. Kiddo LOVED it. He even wanted to email the author (which we did in kiddo's review). We will most certainly be purchasing the next book in the series once it becomes available.

If you'd like more info you can visit the book's website: For those of you in the Alpharetta, Georgia area, author Jenny Cote is available to visit school groups - what fun!


Anna said...

Thanks for the great review. I like that you pointed out the pros and cons. That's very helpful. I read Christian fiction once in awhile, but I'm not a fan when it's in your face all the time. Still, sounds like an interesting book.

Diary of an Eccentric

Carol said...

Just finished reading it myself -- loved it but disagree with some of your comments.

Given that it is a story of the Noah building the ark in the face of critics and in response toi God telling him to do it, how could you tell the story without mentioning Christianity?

It is a wonderful adventure story that looks at an familiar event (at least to most of us) from a different perspective -- how did Noah get all the animals on board? Did he go after them? Maybe, but not in this story -- God called to 2 of every kind from all over the earth and they journeyed to Noah and arrived just in time.

I hadn't thought about it before, but how did the animals from different climiates survive being on the ark, let alone the journey?

I'm a children's librarian and can't wait to both use this as a read-aloud and to recommend to my older students.


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