How God Fix Jonah share button
Lorenz Graham
Format Hardcover
Dimensions 7.33 (w) x 10.32 (h) x 0.67 (d)
Pages 160
Publisher Boyds Mills Press
Publication Date October 2000
ISBN 9781563976988
Book ISBN 10 1563976986
About Book

"Utterly delightful" is how Zora Neal Hurston described this classic book when it was first published in 1946. Long out of print, Lorenz Graham's beautiful collection of Bible stories, told in the idiom of West Africa, is available again in an expanded edition newly illustrated by Ashley Bryan.


Hazel Rochman

The son of an African Methodist Episcopal minister in California, Graham taught in a missionary school in Liberia in the 1920s. He wrote this collection of biblical story-poems, which he published in 1946, in the voices of West African teachers and students. Now the collection has been reissued in a handsome volume with dramatic, new, full-page block prints by Ashley Bryan. The stories, great for reading aloud, have the simplicity and rhythm of the oral tradition. Both colloquial and poetic, they bring the holy into daily life. There's Noah ("God Wash the World and Start Again"), Solomon ("Wise Sword Find True Mommy"), Ruth, Samson, and many others. There are also a few selections from the New Testament, among them, "Make glad all people / God's pican be born in Bethlehem." The word pican, with its racist associations to picaninny, may be a problem with some readers, but as Graham explains in his introduction, the original word, meaning baby, son, or child, was used with great tenderness up and down the West African coast. It would be a shame to deprive today's children of this newly illustrated collection, endorsed by leading black authors, educators, and political leaders, because of the occasional use of this word. Most beautiful is the story of the Prodigal Son, told with a dramatic simplicity that's just right for readers' theater: the wastrel son's return and celebration, the good son's complaint to his father ("I work, I work, I work, I never left you. All the time you never kill one small goat for me. How you do me so?"), and the moving reply ("He was dead and now he live. He ain't got nothin. And he hungry"). A book to share across generations.

Children's Literature

These poems, first published in 1946, are at times profound or humorous, but each reflects the uncomplicated view of an African child recounting the Biblical stories in his own way. As Graham presents the poems, the reader (or better the listener) is aware of the importance of the oral tradition in the West African culture. Graham, a missionary to West Africa in the 1920s, heard the stories and wanted others to share them. In this newly published edition, Ashley Bryan adds detailed black-and-white blockprints to offer visual images to accompany the text. Each story is accompanied by one full-page print. Because of the dialect used by Graham, these stories lend themselves to being read aloud or told. One might question the use of dialect, but Graham's introduction presents the origin of the dialect and offers the proper argument for its use. This new edition would be a worthy addition to a body of African literature. 2000 (orig. 1946), Boyds Mills Press, Ages 5 to 8, $17.95. Reviewer: Jenny B. Petty

School Library Journal

Gr 4 Up-A newly illustrated edition of a 1946 title. Using the vernacular English of West Africa in the 1920s, Graham eschewed "Uncle Remus" phonetic spelling, but preserved the idiomatic and idiosyncratic grammar of Sudanic coastal groups (Mandingo, Golah, Kru). Excerpts may sound awkward ("Now you mens they dead," Naomi tells Ruth), but the ear catches on quickly to the meaning of the phrases sung in poetic rhythms. Biblical order is not followed, so the Prodigal Son appears between two Moses episodes, rather than as a Christian parable; only brief accounts of the Nativity, the lost boy-Jesus, and the loaves and fishes come from the New Testament. All of the stories focus on relationships. There is unexpected humor (Goliath's question to David, "Do you mommy know you out?), drama (Goliath's protracted fall), and poignancy (David's mourning). Solomon's wisdom; Joshua's leadership; and the stories of Joseph, Esther, Job, Elisha, and Cain and Abel are among those memorably retold. Bryan's blockprints communicate a simplicity and strength in harmony with the text. Highly decorative in their intricate design, they also recognize the central character and dramatic moment in each story: Daniel embracing the lions, Isaac embracing Jacob. This book conveys a distinctive flavor of West African culture, and offers fresh, piquant seasoning for familiar Bible tales.-Patricia Lothrop-Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.