Linda Bulger's Reviews > The Ark,the Reed,and the Fire Cloud

The Ark,the Reed,and the Fire Cloud by Jenny L. Cote
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's review
Nov 28, 2008

really liked it

One misty dawn Max the Scottish terrier left his burrow and trotted to the loch, where he heard a strange humming in the reeds: COME. COME TO ME. FOLLOW THE FIRE CLOUD. Startled, Max climbed the Glen for advice from his wise friend Gillamon, an ancient and well traveled goat. Gillamon pondered a while and told Max that he was being called by the Maker and had to accept the challenge. Max, brave but humble, took a reed from the loch and struck out on his epic journey.

The Ark, the Reed, and the Fire Cloud (The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz, Book One) is the tale of Max the terrier and Liz, the sleek black cat from France, who lead a swelling progress of animals around the world to join Noah in his epic water journey. Their party includes Al, a big orange Irish cat, and the wee terrier Kate, also from Scotland; seagulls Bethoo and Crinan; and Craddock the whale. Animals from all parts of the world join them, each called to follow the fire cloud.

Snippets of Noah's trials are woven through the story. Noah and his family spent one hundred years building the ark at God's direction, undeterred by the ridicule of the surrounding population. Finally the two stories intersect, the animals board the wondrous ark, and the rains begin. The trials of Max and Liz are by no means over because the ark contains the seed of the same wickedness God is purging with the floods. Can the two brave friends contain and overcome the threat? What will be their reward for courage and faith? What's at the heart of the magnificent fire cloud that inspires and leads this unlikely crew?

Clearly the themes of religion and morality underpin this fantasy adventure. Whether or not the idea of a Bible-based morality tale attracts you, author Jenny L. Cote's writing and characterization are bound to enchant any reader. While aimed at the 9-to-12-year set, this is a book for the entire family to enjoy -- in fact the complex themes beg to be discussed en famille. The animals speak in the accent and idiom of their home countries, a real feast for any parent or teacher who enjoys dramatic reading (though possibly an obstacle for children reading for themselves). Don't miss the glossary of main characters by country, with a key to their "lingo."

This book is the first in a planned series about Max and Liz. Other reviewers have mentioned that giant in the genre, C.S. Lewis. The Ark, the Reed, and the Fire Cloud is more explicitly Bible-based than the Narnia series, but in spite of its antediluvian roots the story is fresh, full of fantasy and wonderful characters, scary at times -- thoroughly modern.

I can't wait to get a look at the next book in the series. I'm settling on four stars, only because of the challenging accents. Recommended for readers and listeners of all ages.

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