Mrs Noah’s Song

Authored by Jackie Morris
Illustrated by James Mayhew
Published by Otter-Barry Books

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Mrs Noah, it seems, is always singing. Her songs are full of life. She sings while she sows and sings while she sews: even her sewing machine is a Singer. She sings to the children when they wake, she sings them to sleep. She sings the songs that she learned from her mother and grandmother from a time long ago and in a land now left behind and far away. And the memories of these she passes on to her children.

In their first singing lesson, Mrs Noah’s children are first taught the most important lesson of all: to listen. To really really listen. The sounds they hear are those quiet songs from nature. Bird song, bee hum, the rattle of dragonfly wings, and the breeze dancing through the leaves on the tree. But, she tells them, the most beautiful garden songs are best listened to just before the sun rises. Noah and Mrs Noah determine that their children should hear these songs.

Mrs Noah’s Song is the result of the sublime and continuing partnership between Jackie Morris and James Mayhew. And it is a work of beauty. The words themselves are placed in such a way that they give to each sentence a rhythm and a hint of melody. The illustrations are collage rich with echoes of the colours and shapes of Chagall and Van Goch, and they too fizz with texture and the movement of music. As readers, we are urged to stop, look, and simply listen.

This is the third in a series of stories about Mrs Noah, the wife of that well-known ark builder, Noah. The first story, Mrs Noah’s Pockets, sees the ever-resourceful and gently subversive wife smuggling, in her specially constructed pockets, those animals deemed by Noah too troublesome to bring aboard the ark: unicorns, dragons, phoenix, and griffins. I mention this here because the illustrations in this third book include these mythical creatures, living in harmony with Mrs Noah, her children, and her songs.

This is a beautiful book and one that demands to be shared.

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