Picture books for adults on your gift list

Published December 1, 1998

EVEN IN AN AGE of instant electronic communication of voice and image, picture books still have their appeal. The combination of still pictures – whether paintings by old masters or striking contemporary photographs – and the written word allow a person to browse, reflect, absorb, enjoy, free from the compulsion of the ever-changing screen. And, picture books still make popular gifts at Christmas time. Here are some which combine striking photographs, interesting text, and Christian insight. Mothers & Daughters looks into this key human relationship through a team effort of well-known spiritual writer Madeline L’Engle and her photographer daughter-by-adoption Maria Rooney. The mother shares her own life as mother and daughter and reflects on the many different kinds of mothers and daughters. The daughter offers dozens of black and white photos of women’s lives across the generations: diverse, compelling, moving. At the heart of this book is the relationship of L’Engle and Rooney – warm, tumultuous and deep. Here is one of the meditations: “My daughter is my delight. I laugh with joy. Surely Mary must have delighted in Jesus. Surely Mary’s mother must have laughed with her. All the way back to Eve, mothers have laughed with delight. Who laughed with Eve?” [pullquote]When True Simplicity is Gained , by the father-son team of Martin and Micah Marty, reflects in word and picture on the grace of the simple life. The title comes from the old Shaker hymn, The Gift to be Simple and Micah Marty’s black and white photographs portray Shaker arts and artifacts. They are paired with Martin Marty’s meditations based in the classic prayers of the church. The busy and perhaps distracted person is offered a path to clarity of purpose and serenity of soul – and perhaps a new experience of God. Text and photographs go together in a well-crafted whole.Charlton Heston Presents The Bible is a big, handsome book both in text and illustration, based on the earlier television series. In a 50-year screen-acting career, Heston has played some of the Bible’s most prominent characters – especially Moses in The Ten Commandments – and his well-known sonorities are recognizable in the re-tellings of the great themes of the Old and New Testaments which form the heart of this book. The stories are complemented by excellent reproductions of classic paintings and colour photographs of Holy Land sites. Because the material is based in the King James Version of the Bible there is perhaps more masculine imagery than some might like, but this is balanced by explanatory notes, an accessible reference section and historical maps. Of his career-long interest in Christianity and the Bible, Heston says: “I’m not a clergyman or a scholar. I’m a storyteller. There are simply no greater stories to tell.” Wheat Kings is about what once were called “Cathedrals of the Plains” – the prairie grain elevators. Once every rail line had a siding every five or 10 miles, marked by one or more tall grain elevators. Around their feet would be a small town, supported by a surrounding trading and service area in a rich community life. Rail line abandonment brought elevator closures which left towns with no reason to exist and cast them into oblivion. To their credit, very often it was the churches who were the last to leave these near-ghost towns – and still are working to bring new ways of ministering to the faithful remnant still living there. For present and former prairie dwellers, this is unabashed nostalgia for a once-vibrant way of life, but it also has deeper significance as personal and spiritual landmarks disappear.


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