Animal Tales Animal Tales
A set of four board books

Heather Henning with illustrations by Gillian Chapman
ISBN 9781853454639 (185345463X)
CWR, 2008

Category: Books for Children and Parents
Reviewed by: Jeremy Kirby

A biblical exposition of Genesis 1 ("Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds", etc.) pitched at toddler level — this is great stuff! Have you ever wondered why God gave camels, pigs and elephants such odd noses? (shades of Job 39…). Or why frogs, deer and pandas have such different feet? This is where you will find some answers — accompanied by some striking illustrations that really do highlight some of the more curious animal attributes littering Creation. The four board books focus in turn on feet, noses, tails and coats. The texts are simple, to-the-point, two-liners ideal for reading to little children: "Mountain Sheep clings onto rocks with his hoofs. It's fun to climb!" (inspired by Habbakuk?) Or: "Hedgehog curls under the spiky coat God gave him. It's sleepy time!"

Granted, the books occasionally leave something to be desired in the realism department. Based at least on my trips to zoos, elephants, rhinos and hippos are not generally mauve coloured, nor are lions' manes scarlet. I find toddlers can be surprisingly perceptive in these matters. Mine wasn't too impressed by the pig either, which bears no resemblance to any pigs I or, apparently, he, have ever seen either in real-life or in books. The choice of illustrations also includes a few probably unfamiliar to toddlers reared on British children's literature (lemurs, anyone?).

These, however, are minor quibbles. The general impression of these board books is excellent. My two-and-a-half-year-old thinks the pictures are really cool (the pig notwithstanding) — and he actually seems to get the message: God really thought up all these crazy creatures, and that craziness sometimes has a purpose. All in all, these are child-friendly books embodying some pretty solid, contextualised theology — for my money, they're a winner.

Jeremy Kirby, September 2008

Jeremy Kirby teaches at Calvary Chapel Bible College in Siegen, Germany, and is a Distance Learning student on London School of Theology's MA course in Hermeneutics. He is married to Claudia and has two sons.


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