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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Meet at the Ark at Eight!
by Ulrich Hub
Age Range: 9-11
There is snow and ice and ice and snow everywhere. Each day is the same and there is nothing for three bored penguins to do except fight with each other and smell slightly fishy. When a butterfly appears the smallest penguin wants 'to do him in' but the others tell him " thou shalt not kill", " Who says so?" he asks " God" the other two reply.
After the little penguin goes off in a huff, a large white dove appears to tell the penguins that she has a message from God. There is going to be a great catastrophe and the whole planet will be flooded. The penguins must hurry as there is space on Noah's Ark for only two penguins and they must be there at eight o'clock.
The penguins feel bad about leaving their friend behind so they go off to find him. Somehow they have to find a way to sneak their friend on board which is going to be easier said than done!
Meet at the Ark at Eight is German playwright Ulrich Hub's first book, translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby. It’s a delightfully quirky tale and a new take on the traditional biblical story of Noah's Ark from the Old Testament. Full of tongue-in-cheek humour, especially the dialogue between the three penguins and the conversations with the white dove this is what makes this book so appealing. In one hilarious scene, the two penguins' efforts to hide the stowaway lead to him trying to convince the dove that she is actually speaking to God. Although a little sceptical, the dove is not entirely sure what to think.
" I don't believe it", laughs the dove.
"You don't believe in God?" The voice sounds threatening this time.
"Yes, I do, but – "
"Well, then," booms the voice.
"But I do find it hard to believe," replies the dove,
"that God's in this suitcase."
"Why? God is everywhere."
The irreverent humour often raises some difficult philosophical questions about the existence or nature of God and Hub doesn't provide easy answers. Jörg Mühle's black and white artwork enhances the witty text further, especially the vignettes of the little penguin being stuffed into a suitcase or the funny disguises worn by the dove and the little penguin towards the end of the story. There is a lot to relish and mull over in this little gem of a book, and is one that adults are sure to enjoy reading just as much as children.