“Big” means a double-scoop ice cream cone and the deep end of the pool.
So why can’t Noah’s ark be both cute and sweet and the seven-story wonder at the Ark Encounter that opened July 7 in Kentucky?
The Ark Encounter is only an hour from my home, and I’m eager to visit. Just to see the size of the ark could be amazing enough, but to walk through the inside too—with multiple levels and lifelike models of animals and the members of Noah’s family—I know I will be awed, humbled, amazed!
I wonder, though: Am I going to find any of my books in the Ark Encounter’s Fairy-Tale Ark display? It’s a bit of a “hall of shame” because the illustrations in the books on display don’t give children a realistic view of the ark.
Genesis Does Matter
Let me say quickly that I respect and admire Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. I’m thankful for all their work to share the gospel and its roots in the first book of the Bible. I believe the creation accounts in Genesis are true. I believe the earth is thousands of years old (not billions or even millions), and that good science supports that claim.
What we believe about Genesis does matter.
I’m a mom and a grandmother, though, and I’ve worked as an editor and now an author. I’ve learned that for children under seven or so, a big boxy ark with one window and no animals doesn’t make the most interesting art.
And I’d much rather give children something interesting to look at so they can hear the truths of God’s Word.
I’ve also learned that a colorful Noah’s ark on a cover helps sell books. And I’m OK with that. I want my books to find their way to as many children as possible, because I want them to hear God’s Word.
Ages and Stages
Ken Ham doesn’t object to the style of the artwork in fairy-tale ark books. It’s the lack of correct visual details he objects to. And I believe he IS right that fairy-tale or bathtub ark illustrations aren’t appropriate at every age.
Children—and adults—need to know what the ark really looked like. We all need to understand that Noah’s ark really could float and withstand a global flood, that all the animals needed to repopulate the early really could fit inside.
We need to know these things because we need to understand and believe God’s Word is true.
But I don’t mind having sweet illustrations of Noah’s ark in and on my books if it fits the book and the children I’m writing for.
Let Children Grow with Noah’s Story
For young children, the account of Noah’s ark is about God’s care and provision for Noah, his family, and the animals—and for them. It’s about Noah thanking God when the ark lands and the earth is dry and everyone can come out of the boat, and how we thank God for taking care of us too.
When children are a little older, Noah’s story can focus on Noah’s faith and obedience too. And when they are a little older still, the need for the ark will help them begin to understand God’s view of sin. Eventually they can see that the ark prefigures salvation and the gospel.
The illustrations they see as they grow should expand and grow with them. Here’s one that does, from The Story for Children.
I like things factual, and I admit that when I first saw the sketch for the cover of Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers, I felt torn. I knew the illustration would have instant appeal—all those adorable sleepy animals under a starry sky! But I wondered if the ark couldn’t be a bit more realistic?
I decided not to worry, and I’m glad. Children can’t resist picking up the book when they see it. And the mood of the illustration perfectly fits the bedtime theme of the book—Bible stories focused on God’s love, true words to dream on.
Maybe part of the problem of the fairy-tale ark, if there is one, is that most Bible storybooks are written for children under 8 or so. Families often give them up in exchange for full-text Bibles for their kids, with fewer illustrations. So children could be left with their earliest impressions of the ark.
But children give up childish impressions of all kinds as they learn and grow. And with just a little attention to the Word, the true size and shape of the ark can become clear.
All the more reason to be thankful for organizations like Ken Ham’s that create resources to help us know the significance of the book of Genesis and teach it to our children.