Monday, April 12, 2010

The Man Who Couldn't Wait

written by Joann Scheck, illustrated by Alice Hausner
an Arch book

This is one of an excellent series of illustrated Bible books for children, called Arch books because they are published in St. Louis. We had a ton of Arch books around the house when I was a kid. Most of them are written in rhyme, and they are illustrated by a great variety of artists in many different styles. The quality of the illustrations, the rhythm, and the rhymes varies within the series, but most are very well done. Now as I am starting to read Arch books to my son, some of the better-written ones come back to me very quickly as I read their catchy rhythms and rhymes. They are lines and refrains I once had memorized.

The Man Who Couldn’t Wait chronicles Peter’s journey with Jesus, from when they first meet until after Jesus ascends into heaven. The book begins by introducing Peter with his personality “bold as can be,” and shows us the growth of their relationship and of Peter’s understanding. Of course, not every incident or conversation is included. The story does not include Peter’s denial of Jesus on the night of His arrest, but it does highlight the incident when, in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter cuts off a man’s ear as he attempts to defend Jesus with a sword. This scene of confusion and violence gives us a sense of that awful night and day – the crucifixion is described, on the next page, in a single line. The last scene is Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended with tongues of fire and gave Peter boldness to begin preaching about Jesus.

In short, the book gives us an overview of Peter's journey in the Gospels, and it includes some incidents with Peter that are not the most famous. I believe these are real strengths of the book.

Another strength is the illustrations. They are not cutesy or cartoony. They could even be described as a bit gritty, with gloom or suffused light very well portrayed in ways that are appropriate to each scene. The characters look like grown-ups. Some conventions are not followed; Jesus does not wear blue, and His hair is no longer than Peter’s. Peter, who is often portrayed with curly hair, here has hair that is straight and greying. The illustrator does follow the convention of never portraying Jesus’ face, but always showing Him from behind, from a distance, or at most in profile. When we do see His profile, He is rugged and dark-eyed. All in all, the illustrations communicate a sense of seriousness, realism and respect for the characters.

I was happy to rediscover this book in time to read it to my son before Easter.