Saturday, June 15, 2019

Review - Small Rain: Verses from the Bible

Small Rain: Verses from the Bible
selected by Jessie Orton Jones
illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones
Date: 1943
Publisher: Viking Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 56
Format: e-book
Source: Open Library

This book contains quotes from the King James version of the Bible, and is illustrated with scenes from modern life which small children can recognize and understand.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

A Goodreads friend mentioned this book in reference to the diverse selection of children portrayed within. While it might not be that diverse by today's standards, it's not completely white, either, which was probably quite unusual for the time it was published... in the 1940s! There are a number of children of colour portrayed alongside their white friends, and all of the kids are... well, just being kids.

The strength of this book is its artwork, and I can see why it got the Caldecott Honor in 1944. The children are adorable, and even though the pictures are limited in their colour palette, they're engaging and sweet. The text, on the other hand, is where the book kind of falls apart. Some of these verses are going to be difficult for even Christian kids to swallow. The stilted language of the King James version of the Bible is used, with all its thees and thous, making for a bit of a slog and quite a few places that will trip up the tongue. The Golden Rule is there, though you could be forgiven for not noticing; I kind of doubt that most of the audience for this book is going to be able to understand:

Be ye kind one to another,
Tenderhearted, forgiving one another.

All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,
Do ye even so to them.

I mean, the accompanying illustration is adorable, but I'm barely able to make sense of that collection of words as an adult! Grammar has changed since the early 1600s; if you want children to understand the Bible, you probably shouldn't use the King James text!

I wouldn't mind seeing if this author illustrated anything else, because her drawings of children are very cute. But I'm afraid the text in this one just doesn't do it for me. I'm not going to critique the Bible here, but I just don't feel like these verses (and the language they're written in) are suitable for a children's picture book. This would probably be a hard sell even for today's Christian kids.

Quotable moment:

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

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