Many are familiar with the biblical story of Noah’s Ark. Finkel retells a much earlier ark tale, discovered in the cuneiform writing of the people of Mesopotamia.
Very-quick, a 9-year-old boy, overhears Enki, one of the gods, tell his father, Atra-hasis, that he must build a giant coracle, a round boat, and “save life.” Enki is very specific about its construction, which is a good thing since Atra-hasis doesn’t know much of anything about boat building. Fortunately, he’s able to convince many neighbors to help out, since the scale of the boat is immense, and he’s only got seven days to both complete the work and gather up pairs of all the world’s animals. Happily, the animals start arriving on their own as soon as the boat is completed. Inserted in the fable is one chapter from the point of view of the gods, one of whom, highly cantankerous (and the most powerful), is tired of humankind; their group dynamics are almost humorous—and very human, as well. Finkel includes direct quotes from the ancient cuneiform tablets in bold type. Giles’ naïve, black-and-white illustrations enhance the presentation. Brief and presented in relatively simple language, this story is both amusing and intriguing.
A fascinating tale, worthy of retelling, that includes plenty of smoothly incorporated details of life in Mesopotamia. (Historical fiction. 8-12)