Books: Ehud! Or is it Elah?

Diona Gregory is inspired by religious books for children at Easter
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The Independent Culture
ALONGSIDE the more orthodox religious books for children available this Easter are some which can only be described as New Age. Here are some of this season's most inspiring offerings.

In God's People: Stories From The Old Testament (Orion pounds 12.99) Geraldine McCauchrean reverentially retells the Old Testament stories, often in slightly dated language ("And God sent manna to feed the Children of Israel") with biblical quotes in the margins for budding scholars. Anna C Leplar's colourful sketches are gently realistic.

The Blessing Seed: A Creation Myth For The New Millennium (Barefoot pounds 9.99) by Caitlin Matthews offers the concept of original blessing to replace original sin. After the Fall, God tells "Man and Woman" to explore the four paths of wonder, emptiness, making, and of coming home, and then He will be able to help them understand their place in the world. Alison Dexter's watercolours, influenced by Indonesian batik, embody the optimistic, heartening and mythical nature of the story.

The Amazing Story of Noah's Ark, Joseph And His Magnificent Coat of Many Colours, and Jonah And The Whale (Walker pounds 4.99) are merrily retold and brightly illustrated by Marcia Williams who adopts a strip-cartoon format to indicate the passage of time, be it fast or slow. Her simple, direct language is ideal for younger readers and she has taken pains to reassure them that all will be well - why have we never been told about the faithful hound which accompanied Jonah into the belly of the whale before?

Jonah And The Whale (Frances Lincoln pounds 4.99) is retold more darkly by Geoffrey Patterson. His Ali-Babaesque characters inhabit a sweeping landscape of intense colour. Highly recommended.

St Francis of Assisi wrote his "Canticle of the Sun" in 1225 to praise the wonders of nature. Reeve Linbergh (Charles' daughter) reworks his hymn into rhyming couplets in The Circle Of Days (Walker pounds 9.99), making an easy-to-learn prayer. Neatly regimented, exuberant paper collage pictures by Cathie Felstead abound with scrapbook profusion, illuminating the simple text.

In Miracle Maker: A Life of Jesus Retold and Remembered (Lion pounds 9.99) Mary Joslin has mixed poems, psalms and prayers - St Francis again, Christina Rossetti, Mary Coleridge, John Newton - with short extracts from the Gospels naturally retold. An intricate, ornate design combines Francesca Pelizzoli's decorations and Gill-inspired paintings.

Sister Wendy's Book of Saints (Dorling Kindersley pounds 12.99) will be published later this month. Starring 35 saints featured in radiant illuminated manuscript pages from the Italian State Libraries, DK's trademark design is ideal for displaying their intense pigments and gloriously detailed work, so the fiddly border around each page and a claustrophobic and uninformative running head are annoyingly distracting. Inimitable interpretations as ever from Sister Wendy who chronicles each saint's life, gruesome ordeals, feast day, iconographic emblems and for those thirsting for more practical knowledge, the subjects of their patronage.

Reverend Dr Stephen Motyer's Who's Who In The Bible: An Illustrated Guide (DK pounds 9.99) is perfect for sorting your Ehuds from your Elahs, with its short entries describing the lives of over 400 biblical characters, vividly illustrated by Peter Dennis.

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