Peter Spier has long been one of my favorite children’s illustrators. His Noah’s Ark has been at our house since John was born in 1979, the year after it won the Caldecott Medal. People has had a home here since Christmas of 1982. I love Noah’s Ark, and I love People–not every page, but most of them.
I am not one to throw out a whole book just because of a few pages, especially a picture book. Now I actually work as an editor, but I’ve been editing verbally for a long time. When I read aloud, I skip words, or even pages, and sometimes I change the words. I have chosen many library books to use with children because I thought the illustrator did a wonderful job of showing the wonders of God’s creation, even if the illustrator or the author didn’t even know he was honoring the Creator.
The flyleaf of People shows the world from space. On the dedication page Spier has drawn the garden of Eden with sunbeams shining down from clouds. You know the kind of sunbeams I mean, the ones that make you think of Jesus coming back.
Birds fly above the garden. A waterfall flows down a cliff. Waterfowl swim in the stream. Animals graze in pasturelands. And, there in the grass are the first man and the first woman. I’ve always been uncomfortable seeing all of their backsides. Adam and Eve aren’t standing behind bushes like they are in most drawings, but there they are just like God made them, innocent and without the need of any clothes yet.
Throughout the book, Spier illustrates how the descendants of Adam and Eve are different and how they are alike. He shows our tendency to want to change ourselves, such as from curly hair to straight and from straight to curly. He also illustrates how different we are in what we think is beautiful or ugly.
In one illustration Spier shows two Brazilian Indians facing a small group of Dutch townspeople. The Brazilians and the Dutch are wearing their traditional costumes. Beside this picture are two American tourists facing a group of African tribesmen. In both pictures, it is hard to know who looks most ridiculous to whom.
Last Saturday morning I had a Peter Spier People moment in the ladies’ room at the homeschool convention in Duluth, Minnesota. I walked in wearing a skirt, shirt, and sweater with black tights and heels. I had on earrings and a necklace. On my face was foundation, blush, a little eye shadow, mascara, and lipstick.
In the ladies’ room was a large mirror, hung horizontally about waist high. I went over to the left side of the mirror and touched up my makeup. A woman in a Mennonite cape dress came in and went to the right side of the mirror to work on getting her hair tucked neatly into her white prayer cap.
As we stood side by side, I thought about what an interesting photograph we would make. I knew we were both there to do the same thing–to honor God by how we presented ourselves at the homeschool convention.
On one opening of People, Spier shows how dull it would be if we were all exactly alike. In the end, he invites us to celebrate the reality that we are not exactly alike at all. I do celebrate that, but I wish he had told the rest of the story. We have a Savior Who died to save everyone of us different folks.
For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but have eternal life.
John 3:16, NASB