Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Ageless Story

Finished The Ageless Story by Lauren Ford. It won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1940. This is a strange book. It begins with a letter from Ford to her goddaughter, telling her about Gregorian chants and how they were almost lost during the Renaissance. Next follows the legend of Saint Anne followed by the story of the life of the Christ Child in the words of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke. The text is quite small and tight. After all this text there are facing pages with illuminated Gregorian chants (score included) and very detailed illustrations for The Ageless Story with captions underneath. The illustrations are the oddest part. They depict the story of the birth of Christ and his boyhood, but seem to be set in 19th Century New England.

When the angel appears to Saint Anne in the garden there is a large green watering can with a red "A" on it (um, hmmmm.....bizarre Hester Prin reference???) When the Virgin Mary is born there are patchwork quilts all over the bedroom. Houses in the background of the illustrations are white clapboard with green shutters. When the angel appears to the Virgin Mary, Mary is dressed in an Amish style outfit with a halo above her little white cap. Joseph appears in several pictures in what looks like a mohair coat and carrying a red and green carpet bag. As Jesus grows to be a young boy the family is shown sitting in a New England parlor with a grandfather clock, a kerosene lamp and ornate wallpaper on the wall. I'm sure that these illustrations are engaging for children in their gentleness and intense detail, but the whole thing seems a bit surreal to me.

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