This book may be shelved in the children’s section, but it is a book for adults as well. Written by Douglas Wood and illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee, this story is a parable for our times that received the top rating of 5 stars in its 73 reviews on Amazon.com—a rare feat indeed.
Wood writes of a time long ago when all the different parts of nature could communicate with each other, and of how they began to argue about subjects all too familiar to us: What is the most important thing? Who is God? How can we know God? The lioness argues that She is a hunter, the antelope envisions Him as a runner, the ants as Someone close, and the stars as a lofty Being who is far away. How can they decide who is right?
The argument gets louder and nastier until at last Old Turtle steps in. She tells the creatures about a new race of beings who are coming, who will occupy a very special place in nature. When these “human” beings finally come, the same argument ensues with even more devastating results. Only after the humans remember who they are does the destruction stop.
Remembering who we are turns out to be about more than just knowing ourselves. There can only be peace and harmony on the earth when we take that next step toward understanding and accepting our fellow creatures and their different points of view.
This simple yet eloquent story is a powerful reminder of how much we need each other. Each of us sees and knows only one small part of the whole. Together, our understanding is much greater. This understanding turns out to be the kind of love that heals the earth.
Cheng Khee-Chee’s watercolor illustrations perfectly capture both the beautiful detail and the sweeping scope of Wood’s vision. Yes, children can get a great deal out of this book. However, I believe it is a story that grows in meaning with time, maturity, and experience.