Can a book be too beautiful for its own good?
Hammer’s sentences sound nothing like ordinary speech. The book is a poem, and every paragraph is packed with dense imagery. Like the best poetry, it teaches readers how to navigate it, but the lesson won’t come naturally to everyone. The sentences sound like this: “Always, there was a circle of sun and rain, night and day, seed and fruit, earth and sky. Always, the wind was with them to blow them toward the next season.” The phrasing is so formal and stylized that some people may find themselves reading each sentence more than once. Readers who enjoy the challenge will appreciate the story, an extended metaphor in which a tour of the Garden of Eden represents the cycle of Jewish holidays. The imagery is striking: “Name this day Purim, the festival of good luck,” is a clear, blunt description of the holiday, but it’s also a surprising, complicated metaphor about the nature of Purim. Cohen’s painted illustrations are also packed with meaning, and some pages are filled with iconography from Coptic and Mesopotamian cultures.
Not everyone will appreciate a picture book that requires a glossary and a guide to iconography, but those who do may find that they need to read this one. (Picture book/religion. 6-10)