There's a bit of excitement buzzing around CFRB right now about the book we are touring. After all, it isn't every month we are honored to host a novel that has a move deal! Yes, we are very happy to announce that The Ark, the Reed, and the Firecloud by Jenny L. Cote is scheduled to become a movie!
When I learned that this was a children's book, I was curious to see what was in store, but I was definitely not prepared for 450 pages! The age level for this is definitely lower than the average Harry Potter fan, so I was pretty skeptical at first. Within a short time, though, Ms. Cote and Max won me over.
The tale begins with Max, a Scottish terrier with a heart as big as all outdoors. Max saw himself as more or less master of all he surveyed, but he was really a homebody with little desire to travel. One day, however, as he was roaming through his beloved glen, he spotted some reeds moving and humming when there was no wind. Shades of Moses and the Burning Bush; when he came closer to the reeds, he could hear them saying, "Come to me." And then, "Follow the Firecloud." Huh? Well, Max had the presence of mind to ask an older and wiser creature for advice. Gillamon the goat, his dear friend and spiritual advisor, helped him to understand that it was indeed a call from the Maker. Max had been called to follow Him by following the Firecloud. This mysterious cloud soon showed itself, and moving out in a new step a faith, the little dog became part of a special move of Chosen Ones that were part of God's special plan. A plan to save His creation from the ravages of sin.
So Max sets out his long journey from Scotland to the Middle Eastern lands where Noah and his family were building the ark. Along the way he meets other creatures who were also called, in particular Al (E. Cat?), a very cowardly and plump orange cat from Ireland, and the most clever and curious Liz, a beautiful French feline that knocks Al for a loop. Occasionally, chapters will change focus from Max and company to other animals in other parts of the world or to Noah and company. There are a lot of cute and funny incidents along the way, but there are also some signs of the evil that would wish to destroy God's plan. God's provision comes through, though, time after time, and as he travels Max learns more about trusting God and listening for His voice. Other creatures have their own lessons to learn, lessons which are hopefully passed on to readers.
I see this as a good book for reading out loud to younger children. The chapters are short enough to easily handle one a night at bedtime or whenever story time might be. And so many of the episodes lead easily into some discussions. While I choked a little on the inaccuracies in time and culture (I have a problem with teaching kids factual error), I must admit that those could easily be overcome by a parent discussing things along the way. On the other hand, there are quite a few good lessons about geography, animals, and cultures to go with the fun and the spiritual lessons. Even adult readers should find themselves wondering about just how God pulled it all off. Ms. Cote has some creative ideas about how the animals all got to the ark and how they managed to pass all that time aboard once they were there. I'd love to comment on the episodes aboard the ark and once they were on dry land again, but I don't want to leave any spoilers here.
Kids who can read at at least a third grade level should be able to handle the book on their own. Again, the episodes are short enough that they can read one per sitting without much trouble. And, while it isn't a picture book, there are a few scattered around to help out a bit. Hey, even I like to have some pictures!
Adventure, laughs, reflection, romance, suspense, spiritual lessons, imagination: it's all here and more. I can honestly recommend the book, mostly for young ages, but any who enjoy animal stories should enjoy it.
Oh, and by the way, not only is a movie coming, but Jenny L. Cote is already working on sequels in the adventures of Max and Liz, planning to use these two as a fun way to gain new perspective on other Bible tales as well as post-Biblical history.
For more, see Jenny's website, http://jennycote.com. You can buy the book directly from the author and get it signed by the author, Max and Liz as well! You can also purchase the book from Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.com. I imagine you can also find it at many Christian and regular book stores.