In Bartoletti’s telling of the Flood story, Naamah (pronounced Nay-ah-mah or Na-ah-mah) is the name of Noah’s wife. One night a great storm sets the ark thrashing on the waves and surrounds it with thunder and lightning. Noah and their children toss and turn on their mats and the animals grow restless, but Naamah, calm and wise, moves through the ark singing blessings over those on the ark and for the world around them. Two by two, people and animals settle in to sleep, comforted by Naamah’s song and by her presence. At last Naamah puts herself to bed and the story closes, just as the reader catches a hint of land in the distance.
Though the book’s cover calls Naamah a lullaby, no music is provided or tune suggested. Instead, the rhythm of the lines themselves — which together form what the concluding Author’s Note identifies as a ghazal — effectively soothes the reader (and presumably the listener, as well). It took some time for the illustrations to capture my attention, and at first they seemed rather unremarkable. On closer inspection, I decided that a better term might be “adult” — they are simple and evocative rather than bright or playful, as in most Noah’s Ark picture books. My favourites are the breathtaking images that accompany the chorus — full, two-page illustrations depicting silhouettes of Naamah and one or another pair of animals against a vast starry sky.
An earlier version of this review was originally part of a project on the repurposing of stories, focused on Noah’s Ark. To see more on the subject, including online games, reviews of other picture books and novels, and a glimpse into the vast range of Noah’s Ark-related products available, take a look at the project webpage.