The vegetable ark by Kim Kane

cover image

Ill. by Sue deGennaro. Allen and Unwin, 2010. ISBN 9781741759969.
Picture book. Sub titled, 'A tale of two brothers', the front cover will give children and adults some clues as to what the story may be about. The word 'ark' is evocative of Noah and the ark, and this story may be drawn from some students before reading the book. Weather patterns on the endpapers also gives clues, and opening up, the first page tells us of the two brothers, one Noah and the other, Neil. Each boy has different skills and interests; Noah is competitive and keen on business ventures, while Neil is more interested in his vegetable garden. But when the call comes to build an ark, Noah fills his ark with animals, the better to corner the meat market when the flood is over, while Neil sees that before meat comes vegetables and so makes his own boat and fills it with seeds and seedlings.
The story ends with Neil being the one to find land and plant his seedlings, while Noah is still sending out his dove to find a sign of land. The quirky rivalry between the brothers can be construed as the rivalry between carnivores and vegetarians, while the whole is a delightfully modern retelling of Noah and the ark. Readers will love to talk about their own experiences with sibling rivalry, using Noah and Neil as a template for discussion.
The illustrations by Sue deGennaro are infectiously funny. Neil's long limbs seem to spread out over the page, while Noah's short squat body initially takes up more room, then fades from the scene. Images of gardening and water litter every page, and will entice young eyes to find them.
Fran Knight