I want to thank Master Books for providing me with a copy of 44 Animals of the Bible in return for my honest review.
I’m always on the lookout for great books to use in for our daily read-alouds right after we read the Bible. We read on a wide variety of topics from a Christian worldview. For my boys I read chapter books, but I’ve been on the look-out for books that would be interesting to the girls as well. My toddler nieces love animals, and I expect they’ll love 44 Animals of the Bible by Nancy Pelander Johnson (Master Books, 2014) as well. The gorgeous watercolors by Lloyd R. Hight will catch their eye and the description of the animals will teach them more about God’s world. The Bible verses on each page will help them understand where each animal fit into the Bible, as will the dialogue.
44 Animals of the Bible will not appeal only to younger children. I read most of the book to my 5th grader one feverish, sleepless night this week and he was captivated. We talked about the skill of the artwork, the traits of the animals, and how God referred to or used each animal in His Word.
I expect 44 Animals of the Bible to be a family favorite for years to come.
On Animals of Debatable Identity:
One aspect I did find interesting was the choice of animals. Because the book is published by Master Books, I expected to see an extinct animal or two thrown in. (You know, like the Leviathan.) The pygarg was included, which is almost extinct.
Ms. Johnson does include a few mystery animals like the palmerworm, which she points out is sometimes translated as locust. (The drawing and description are then of the locust.)
She also includes the unicorn (which was translated unicornis in the Latin Vulgate by Jerome). Ms. Johnson states that we don’t really know the true identity of the unicorn (true), but that it could be a wild ox or buffalo (as it is translated in more modern translations).
Like the palmerworm, the whale is included as the fish in the book of Jonah. The original Hebrew simply calls the animal in the book of Jonah a “big fish”. It was William Tyndale who translated this fish as a whale. Pictures drawn in the early church and before show a sea serpent (probably a Hellenized “big fish”). Ms. Johnson does include her own explanation of this translation issue: “There are other animal names in the Bible which refer to the whale. They are: the sea monster, the dragon, and the great fish.” I’m not certain why the Hebrew or Vulgate terms are introduced elsewhere, but a translated term from the Middle Ages is used here, but she’s certainly in safe stead in terms of other children’s Bibles, and I just explained the translation issue to my kids.
Those are the issues that I suspect my scientific purist friends will have questions about—I’ve answered them up front for you.
I think the translation issues are interesting, and I think they’re well-addressed in 44 Animals of the Bible.
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.