Thursday, December 22, 2011

And Now a Ghazel

Intrigued? I was. Haiku has fascinated me for years and now comes another poetry form, the ghazel (say guzzle and you’ll be close). Of course, it’s not new—except to me. This poetic structure dates back to the 7th century (at least) and is Arabic. The challenge in this rhymed couplet lies in each word that is next to the last. As it rhymes with the next to the last word in the line before it, it carries the story forward. What better way to introduce it than by experiencing it in the hands of a master story teller.

NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, illustrated by Holly Meade, Candlewick Press, 2011.

We know about Noah and his faithfulness. We know he built the Ark in spite of the derision of his neighbors. We know he rescued the animals two by two and set sail on a storm tossed sea. What then? What was it like when it got dark aboard the ship? Were Noah’s sons and their wives afraid? And what do we know of Noah’s wife?

Her name was Naamah (say Na-ah-mah or Nay-ah-mah). Scholars think she was a pleasant woman because that is one interpretation of her name. I have to wonder whether anyone of lesser temperament could have survived that crammed existence on a violent sea.

Another interpretation of the name Naamah is “great singer.” Author Bartoletti postulates, “Perhaps she sang.”… to Noah and their sons and the wives of their sons. While Bartoletti imagines Naamah into being, the reader relaxes, feeling the warmth of Naamah’s courage and confidence. Naamah, too, had great faith, just like Noah.

The poetic structure with its smooth, rolling lines creates a mood of peace. So, too, does the sweep of the art, the light and dark, enveloping, revealing. Here is a lullaby story that begs to be read aloud and a young reader will insist that it be read many times. Naamah’s song will bring calm to your stressful day, too. It’s already on my gift list for several friends, of different ages.

Both author and illustrator have won awards for their work. More importantly, they have won the hearts of young readers.

Hillview School Library