Thomas Allen & Son is Canada’s leading independent distributor of books, stationery and calendars


Mrs. Noah's Doves

Mrs. Noah's Doves
Jane Yolen By (author)
Alida Massari Illustrated by
Order Qty:
Review Order

Lerner Publishing Group

Limited ***

9.0 X 11.0 in
32 pg

JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Jewish
JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Ancient Civilizations
JUVENILE FICTION / Legends, Myths, Fables / General
Also Available As:
  Review Order  


Junior Library Guild Selection — 2021 — Winner


Mrs. Noah kept birds. She kept many a variety of birds, ravens and robins, eagles and eiders, cockatoos and crows. But out of all the birds she kept, her favorite were her doves. When the flood comes, Mrs. Noah brings them onto the ark. But there is a special mission for the doves.


Read­ers have come to expect thought­ful and poet­ic new per­spec­tives on women in Jew­ish tra­di­tion from renowned author Jane Yolen. In Mrs. Noah’s Doves, Yolen explores the per­son­al moti­va­tions of Noah’s wife in the sto­ry of the flood, fill­ing the gaps in the bib­li­cal sto­ry with a cre­ative midrash on one woman’s strength and com­pas­sion. Ali­da Massari’s illus­tra­tions are stun­ning, recall­ing both folk art and paint­ings of the Euro­pean mas­ters. The result is an excep­tion­al work which invites young read­ers to iden­ti­fy with the unique mis­sion of both Noah and his wife to work with God in restor­ing life to a bro­ken earth.

In this pic­ture book, Mrs. Noah is more than just a help­mate; Yolen empha­sizes the part­ner­ship between the spous­es in achiev­ing their goal. Yolen’s poet­ic images and cadences ele­vate the text, based on her expec­ta­tion that chil­dren can appre­ci­ate sophis­ti­cat­ed lan­guage and ideas. Mrs. Noah’s deter­mi­na­tion is root­ed not only in her own per­son­al­i­ty, but in a chain of female nur­tur­ers. Her eclec­tic col­lec­tion of birds, “…ravens and robins, eagles and eiders, cock­a­toos and crows,” con­nect her emo­tion­al­ly to the doves her grand­moth­er pro­tect­ed. The peace­ful sym­bol­ism of the dove fly­ing from Noah’s ark gains a new dimen­sion as a vul­ner­a­ble crea­ture saved by a woman’s skills.

As in the Torah, there is ter­ror in this account of destruc­tion by water. Yolen choos­es to avoid the puni­tive aspects of the sto­ry, although they may be implic­it in the famil­iar sequence of events. Instead, the mas­sive flood is a real­i­ty which Noah and his wife con­front with pur­pose­ful actions. Noah is con­fi­dent that God is direct­ing them, and his love and respect for his wife rein­forces their plan. The giant ark — typ­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with male pow­er — is con­struct­ed here by both their sons and their daugh­ters. On a much larg­er scale, the ark reflects the same con­cern for life as Mrs. Noah’s del­i­cate bird cages. This con­sis­tent imagery of ded­i­ca­tion to peo­ple and the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment forms the back­bone of the nar­ra­tive, as mean­ing­ful as the rain­bow which God sends as a promise.

Massari’s pic­tures blend real­ism with dream-like imagery. Each pair of ani­mals on the ark is enclosed in a cage. There are more than only birds; giraffes’ necks stretch beyond the curv­ing black bars and cats have human-like eyes which gaze out with won­der. Tor­ren­tial rain pours into a green and blue sea as the wood­en ark strug­gles to stay afloat. The human char­ac­ters’ faces recall medieval por­traits, infused with spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. Mrs. Noah rais­es her hands as if in prayer, releas­ing doves whose wingspans fea­ture blue and white mosa­ic pat­terns. Just as Yolen’s words enlarge the bound­aries of the well-known sto­ry, Massari’s pic­tures also depict the key fig­ures from a new per­spec­tive. Mrs. Noah is a stat­uesque old­er woman with long gray hair, who turns to her hus­band for sup­port. He appears anx­ious, but the fol­low­ing scene is one of busy activ­i­ty as con­struc­tion of the life-sav­ing project begins. These are real peo­ple rely­ing on close rela­tion­ships as they con­front a fright­en­ing reality.

Yolen and Massari’s new vision of Noah’s ark places a lov­ing and coura­geous woman at the cen­ter. Mrs. Noah’s min­i­mal role in the orig­i­nal ver­sion opens the door to a lyric explo­ration of who she real­ly was, filled with visu­al beauty.Website

In harmonious, poetic language, author Jane Yolen engages readers with kindly Mrs. Noah who cares for injured birds – “ravens and robins, eagles and eiders, cockatoos and crows” and her favorite, the doves – in much the same way a loving grandmother might care for her grandchildren. And when, as we knew would happen, the rains come, Mrs. Noah moves the bird cages higher and higher, caring for the birds, keeping them dry. Still, the waters rise. Mrs. Noah asks Mr. Noah for help. With assurances from Mr. Noah that God has told him what to do, Noah’s family builds a boat – “a floating zoo” – to keep themselves, the birds, and the animals (which arrive two-by-two) safe from flooding waters. At last, the rains cease. Mrs. Noah releases her birds to search for dry land. But, the ravens do not return. Nor do the terns. Or the gulls. Finally, Mrs. Noah releases the doves – her “gray angels” – who return to build a nest and start the cycle of life anew. Poignant illustrations of animals and by Alida Massari add softness, depth, and additional warmth to this powerful retelling of a familiar story. Mr. and Mrs. Noah are portrayed with long, flowing hair and features that may, perhaps, accurately represent people who lived long ago in the “Fertile Crescent” of Mesopotamia - the area that is now Iraq and where many of humankind's inventions may have been inspired.

Readers will fall in love with Mrs. Noah and her doves in this heartwarming retelling of the age-old story of destruction, rebirth, and hope. Using Mrs. Noah as the protagonist, author Jane Yolen gives a new perspective to this quintessentially Jewish story. Mrs. Noah, in her warm and sensitive way, models the all-important mitzvah of caring for the sick. And, in the end, there is hope! A must for all libraries…and homes.

“'Before there was rain,/ Mrs. Noah kept injured birds,' writes Yolen (Elefantastic!), immediately drawing readers into this poetic and visually striking variation on the ark story. Portrayed with light brown skin and flowing white hair, Mrs. Noah exudes serenity as she nurses her feathered patients, and they, in turn, know 'she would keep them safe/ until they were well enough, or old enough,/ to go off on their own.' But she loves the doves best of all: 'They reminded her of her grandmother/ cooing over the newest grandchild/ or, at night, bending over to pray/ in her soft, gray clothing.' When the rains come and the waters rise (the story reverses the traditional chronology of building and storm), Mrs. Noah urges her husband to save her beloved birds, soon learning that God, through Mr. Noah, has much bigger plans in mind—and an important role for her doves. With flowing lines, soft rich tones, and patterning reminiscent of decorative art (the doves’ wings seem almost bejeweled), Massari (Goddess Power) conveys a time and place that feels both of its time and deeply familiar, and the creators render Mrs. Noah as the epitome of selfless love and enduring hope." — Publishers WeeklyJournal

"Yolen puts Noah’s wife center stage in this reimagining of the biblical flood narrative.

Kindly, gentle Mrs. Noah, her long white hair in a half-up bun, nurses injured birds of all kinds back to health. Doves, which remind her of her grandmother (presumably deceased) 'at night, bending over to pray in her soft, gray clothing,' are her favorite. When it begins to rain interminably, Mrs. Noah struggles to keep her bird cages above the rising floodwaters. 'Do not worry,' Mr. Noah reassures her, 'God has told me what to do.' With his sons and daughters, he builds a 'huge boat' (the sudden absence of rain in the illustration showing the boat’s construction may confuse some readers) that spares his family and a male and female of each animal species from the world-engulfing flood. When the rain stops, Mrs. Noah sends out her birds to find evidence of dry land. The eagles, ravens, terns, and gulls all fail to return, but her doves come back bearing bits of vegetation in their beaks, heralding the deluge’s end. Lyrical imagery suffuses the lexically stimulating text: raindrops are 'small drips as perfect as pearls,' and rain showers are 'cloud bursts and gully washers.' Massari’s trademark style incorporates various textures and elaborate patterns recalling the ornamentations of sacral architecture. The animals’ droll facial expressions (Noah’s too, at times) sometimes give them a bored look. The characters’ light-brown skin and clothing cue them as Middle Eastern.

A lovely backstory for an obscure biblical personality." — Kirkus ReviewsJournal

Author Bio

Jane Yolen lives in Massachusetts and has written more than 400 books across all genres and age ranges, including the Sydney Taylor Honor book Miriam at the River. In 2022 she was named the The Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Winner. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century.
Alida Massari is an Italian artist specializing in illustration for children. Born in Rome where she studied illustration at the European Institute of Design, she finds inspiration for her work from folk traditions and ancient art. She has illustrated many books, collaborating with Italian, English, German, and American publishers. She lives in Rome, Italy.