It's Time for the 2nd Annual Resurrecting the Oldies Write Off. For Epinions members this is your opportunity to write about a great book that may have been forgotten, any book at all written before 2001 will do. For non members it is a great way for you to learn about some books from days gone by. Please see the bottom of this page for a list of participants or go to my profile page http://www.epinions.com/user-msmorvay/show_~View_Profile
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Here is my Entry
The Donkeys Dream
In all honesty when I first started to read this book I was not aware that it was the story of the birth of Christ brought about by symbolism. At first sight this book looks like a childrens book about a donkey but turns out there is more to it than what meets the eye.
In the beginning of the book there is a donkey being led by a man. The donkey is dreaming that he is carrying great things such as a rose and a ship and a fountain. Then he dreams he is carrying a woman and the book says that this woman is, Full of Heaven that is when it clicked in my head that this book was about the birth of Christ as the woman was obviously Mary, and the man leading the donkey was Joseph. As an adult I got this but my children certainly did not. All of the sudden the book switches from the dream of the donkey to the reality of the donkey. And the story of the birth of Jesus appears to be being told by the perspective of the donkey that had carried Mary to the stable where the baby Jesus was born. The donkey sees the baby Jesus and the donkey who was tired from his long journey was tired no more, for the opened eyes of the small child lit up the room and invigorated him.
I have done some general bible studies and the symbolism in this book failed to reach me. I would find it very hard to believe that any child would pick up on this, as I said above my children certainly did not. To them and to me before the page with Mary I just thought this donkey was hallucinating and thinking he was carrying all of these strange things on his back. Then once I realized it was actually Mary I then had to start to explain to my kids that the woman in the picture was Mary and that she was pregnant with the baby Jesus. They know the story so they began to understand at this point but still the symbolism was completely lost on them even after I explained it.
How did I explain it? Obviously I was as lost as the kids when it came to the first few pages but at the end of the book there is an authors note that explains some of the symbolism. Without re-writing the entire authors note we learn that the ship in the story represents a mothers womb and a cradle. So when the donkey was dreaming of carrying a ship that is what that symbolized. The authors note goes on to explain the fountain and we also learn that Mary is considered to be the, The rose without thorns. From this authors note I learn that the book is not so much about the birth of Jesus but is actually a tribute to Mary as all of the symbols in the book are actually referring to Mary.
This type of symbolism was interesting to me as an adult but not really all that appealing to my kids and even trying to explain symbolism to them was just too utterly frustrating. They are just learning about the real world now I am throwing symbolism at them.
Weather I am wrong or right it is my feeling that the book is actually more about the art work than about the actual story. I think this is best explained on the inside flap of the dust cover it reads, The miraculous visions into which his (donkey) burden was transformed are rendered by Barbara Helen Berger in a series of exquisite paintings. It also explains that a great deal of research went into this art work which they refer to as paintings and it says that Barbara Helen Berger drew on the written works of Carl Gustav Jung, Alan Watts Emile Male and others as well as the New Testament and the Missal.
The pictures are lovely and colorful but just slightly more detailed than many childrens books. I would say the detailing on the donkey and of Mary and Joseph are more realistic than cartoon like and it seems like the living things (people and animals) take precedence over the back ground. On the cover and on some of the pages you will find blue forget me not flowers drawn about. These symbolize the fact that Mary is always depicted wearing blue.
The book was written and illustrated by Barbara Helen Berger. She graduated with a degree in painting. Her first written and illustrated work was Animalia and her book Grandfather Twilight won the 1984 Parents Choice Award for illustrations.
I really hat to say as I know a lot of work, research and detail went into this book but it is not really a good book as far as children are concerned. The pictures are nice the story line isnt bad, telling the Christmas story from the perspective of the donkey. But writing about symbolism and expecting children to understand it as such is just a little far fetched. They dont really get it and when you try to explain it to them they just really dont seem to care. They want to read a book or have a book read to them that they understand on their own terms without it having to be explained to them as something completely different as what they are actually seeing it as. Personally I thought all of the symbolism stuff was interesting but I am a grown up, it was completely lost on the kids.
There are also a lot of aspects of the original Christmas story that are left out in this book. I dont know weather or not this is something to complain about however since we are only supposed to be seeing what the donkey thinks and sees.
Bottom line I give the book an A for effort I as I know a lot of work when in to it, but I have to give the book a C for child friendliness. It would have been better as a book about a hallucinating donkey or the Christmas story as seen through a donkeys eyes. But a donkey who dreams in symbolism is just too much for kids to grasp. The book has its good points but for the reasons stated above I can only give it an average rating.
This book was written in 1985
Write off Information
This has been an entry in my 2nd Annual Resurrecting the Oldies Book Write Off. If you would like more information or would like to join in please see my profile page, http://www.epinions.com/user-msmorvay/show_~View_Profile
If you would like to join in please send me an email or leave a comment on this review. The purpose of this write off is to resurrect some books that were published at least a few years back and are still worth taking a look at today.
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