All God’s Creatures

Exploring the animal kingdom through these children’s books.

When God created the world in all its grandeur and variety, he also made animals of every kind and declared his creation “good!” In this vividly illustrated picture book using digitally coloured ink drawings, author Daniel Kirk celebrates creatures of the sea, earth, and air. He narrates a prayer for their safety and well being: “May all the animals of the earth,/ and the animals of the sky,/ and the animals of the sea/ be at peace.” 

Without putting it in so many words, Kirk (wittingly or unwittingly) shares the biblical concept of shalom as evidenced in the Garden of Eden and promised in its perfection in the Book of Revelation when Christ will return and make all things new: “May they be free of hunger, /may they be free of fear/…May everything in their world/ be just as it was meant to be.”

Kirk doesn’t address his prayer to God, our Creator, or to any god, for that matter. But Christian parents, grandparents, or caregivers will find in this book an excellent opportunity to praise God with children for the animals he so imaginatively created and to talk about the humane treatment of animals. The book might also prove to be a springboard to arousing children’s curiosity about some of the creatures that are displayed.

In helpful author’s notes, Kirk informs readers about World Animal Day, as well as the practice of some religious groups in the Blessing of the Animals (associated with Saint Francis of Assisi). He also encourages readers to do their part to care for animals and offers suggestions for how that could be accomplished. 

A Prayer for the Animals 
By Daniel Kirk
Harry N. Abrams, 2018.

In Zambia, young Aaron walks six kilometres each day to his job at a resort. One day, he arrives to find a baby elephant thrashing in the pool. Aaron is frightened. What if the mother elephant is nearby and attacks him? After all, recently a man in Aaron’s village was trampled to death by an elephant.

Despite his fear, Aaron yells for help. Others join him and they drag the elephant to safety. Men in uniforms take the animal away in a truck. 

When Aaron walks home, he wonders if the elephant will die. News of the rescue has reached the villagers ahead of Aaron. A man criticizes him: “Did you think we needed more of those thieving giants trampling our crops?” Aaron is confused. Should he have helped the elephant? Aaron’s mother assures him that he did the right thing.

The next day the manager of the resort calls Aaron to his office. He expects to be chastised. Instead the manager commends him for his bravery and passes on a message: Aaron is invited to visit the baby elephant at an orphanage.

Aaron does just that. The elephant keepers notice his natural ability to nurture Zambezi – the name given to the rescued elephant. Soon, the boy is given a job at the orphanage and his life is forever changed.

Based on a true story, author Margriet Ruurs’ informative, passionate narrative is complemented by Pedro Covo’s vivid African landscapes and moving portrayals of human emotions. This children’s picture book is part of the CitizenKid series, books which teach children about the world and usually feature a child whose actions have made a difference.  

The Elephant Keeper: Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia 
By Margriet Ruurs
Illustrated by Pedro Covo 
Kids Can Press, 2017. 

Bear used to be motivated to take care of his farm, but now he’s old, lazy, and cranky. As he sleeps away his days, his farm becomes derelict. 

Fox knows he has to do something to motivate his friend. He comes up with a clever plan. Fox sells Bear a donkey egg: “Still green – has to ripen and hatch!” Then he instructs Bear to care for the donkey egg – children will recognize it as a watermelon, though Bear is none the wiser – by keeping it warm, safe and happy. He warns Bear that the donkey egg won’t ripen overnight. It will take time, so Bear must be patient.

An entertaining, uproarious series of events ensues as Bear follows Fox’s instructions. One day, Hare runs past the farm and screeches to a halt when he notices that Bear is no longer lazing about on his chair. He learns about the donkey egg and tries to convince Bear that donkeys aren’t hatched from eggs. But Bear won’t listen. He’s become attached to his charge. In a surprise ending, Bear gets his donkey after all.

Sisters Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, authors and illustrators of Tops & Bottoms in which Bear and Hare made their debut, have given young children a hilarious treasure. The book includes interesting facts, displayed in boxes, about measurements and how they relate to children’s lives and those of God’s creatures. 

The Donkey Egg 
By Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 

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