The Flood Tales
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This issue’s cover illustration by Fangorn is taken from Brian Jacques’ Lord Brocktree (Hutchinson, 0 09 176877 2, £12.99), the thirteenth title in the internationally best-selling Redwall series. Salamandastron, the ancestral home of the Badger Lords, is under threat from Ungatt Trunn, an enemy whose power would seem to be absolute and whose evil knows no bounds. The only hope for survival is the badger Lord Brocktree who is drawn to the fortress by an undeniable sense of destiny. Brian Jacques' masterful storytelling as always spins a web of high adventure that will enthral the reader from the first page to the last. Thanks to Hutchinson Children’s Books for their help in producing this September cover.
This is a very unusual and ambitious book which attempts to address a wide range of contemporary concerns through the retelling of a universal myth. The tale of the flood is presented from Noah's perspective casting the 600 year-old shipwright as an introspective boozy worrywart, hag-ridden by a termagant wife and restlessly perplexed by the ethical and ecological responsibilities inflicted upon him by his mission. As the ark rides the rising waters, the issues agonised over by Noah and his family include global warming, pollution, animal rights, sexism, racism, evolution, and scientific versus religious accounts of reality. At the end of the book, reality itself is questioned as a wine-sodden Noah reclines in his orchard, gazing at the ruins of the ark, or is it just the hulk of a fishing boat? Monte's prose is both playful and ponderous, as over-stuffed as the ark itself with images, similes and the convoluted rhetorical questions arising from Noah's ruminations. This contrasts with Cohen's serene and charming full page paintings of the saga. So we have what looks like a picture book incorporating a philosophical novella. It requires quite a sophisticated readership: I would highly recommend it to teachers and parents interested in exploring philosophical issues with older children through literature. You won't fit it into the literacy hour.