Cover image for What a truly cool world!
What a truly cool world!
Lester, Julius.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic, 1999.
Physical Description:
1 volume [unpaged] : color illustrations ; 32 cm
Discovering that making a world takes a lot of work, God calls on his secretary Bruce and the angel Shaniqua to help him create bushes, grass, flowers, and butterflies.
Reading Level:
AD 330 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.5 0.5 29510.

Reading Counts RC K-2 5.2 2 Quiz: 19648 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
J PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



In this wonderfully imagined story, God has many helpers. Those who assist in the creation of everything from music to butterflies include his wife, Irene God; his secretary, Bruce; and his beloved angel, Shaniqua. Bursting with vibrant folk-art style paintings, this witty and inspirational story will delight readers of all ages.

Author Notes

Julius Bernard Lester was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 27, 1939. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Fisk University in 1960. He moved to New York to become a folk singer. He performed on the coffeehouse circuit as a singer and guitarist. He released two albums entitled Julius Lester in 1965 and Departures in 1967. His first published book, The Folksinger's Guide to the 12-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly written with Pete Seeger, was published in 1965.

In the 1960s, Lester was closely involved as a writer and photographer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He traveled to the South to document the civil rights movement and to North Vietnam to photograph the effects of American bombardment. He also hosted radio and television talk shows in New York City.

He wrote more than four dozen nonfiction and fiction books for adults and children. His books for adults included Look Out, Whitey!: Black Power's Gon' Get Your Mama, Revolutionary Notes, All Is Well, Lovesong: Becoming a Jew, and The Autobiography of God. His children's books included To Be a Slave, Sam and the Tigers, and Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue, which won the American Library Association's Coretta Scott King Award in 2006. He also wrote reviews and essays for numerous publications including The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, Dissent, The New Republic, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

After teaching for two years at the New School for Social Research in New York, Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1971. He originally taught in the Afro-American studies department, but transferred to the Judaic and Near Eastern studies department when Lester criticized the novelist James Baldwin for what he felt were anti-Semitic remarks. He died from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on January 18, 2018 at the age of 78.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 4^-8. Lester presents a new creation story that Cepeda draws flamboyantly, featuring a phat God, a hip-happening heavenly host, and a world that's just waiting to be impressed with its bad self. Using as a starting point the traditional African American folktale "How God Made the Butterflies," Lester breaks it open as he tells about how pleased God was with himself after making his first world. The earth is brown and blue, populated with people and animals, and God figures the job is finished until the angel Shaniqua comes by and tells him it's boring. Back to the drawing board. Some greenery is added. But not enough, so God sings flowers into being. Progress. It is not until Shaniqua, who has been quietly practicing her own singing, chants into being the flutterbys--that is, butterfliesthat the world really begins. Lester's text is as jumping as a tune on the jukebox with enough slang to make the details of history's oldest tale seem very modern. Cepeda effectively creates the scene with such soaring vistas and wonderful pinks, purples, greens, and golds that viewers could almost believe they were seeing colors for the first time. Some adult readers may quibble with the character of Shaniqua because God has a perfectly good wife (Irene God) who could sing along with her husband instead of the younger, sexier angel. But kids will probably pay more attention to God's Urklelike secretary, Bruce, and the rest of the angelic population, who sit on clouds and drink lemonade as they watch the world come into being. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

"I allow my imagination free play here," writes Lester in his introduction to this fresh interpretation of "How God Made the Butterflies," a creation tale he retold more traditionally in 1969 in Black Folktales. An African-American deity looks down with satisfaction on the world he has just created, seated in a lounge chair in his computer- equipped, heavenly digs. Enter Shaniqua, "the angel in charge of everybody's business," who announces: "I don't want to hurt your feelings or nothing like that, but what you made looks kind of boring." In an attempt to make his world less drab, God snips off the tops of trees to create grass and bushes and sings into being flowers of many colors. But the blooms are lonely. Since God is too hoarse, Shaniqua takes over to supply companions for the flowers, and her song causes the angels, stars and planets to cry tears of various hues, which turn into tiny, colorful butterflies. The banter between Lester's characters more than makes up for a few leaps in logic. Cepeda's (Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey) oil paintings, with their vivid palette and hip particulars (Shaniqua sports a beehive 'do, electric-blue evening dress, pointy-toed orange shoes and luminous green wings), bring a funky dimension to this playfully outlandish depiction of how the world came to be. Ages 4-7. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2-Lester and Cepeda depict a down-to-earth God to whom children can relate in this remarkable book. Pleased with his creation of the world, He is about to call it an early night. Then Shaniqua, "the angel in charge of everybody's business," bustles in with the observation that the green, brown, and blue planet looks kind of boring. God agrees, and a series of amazingly creative acts results in the making of flowers and butterflies. With the help of Bruce, God's personal assistant, and Shaniqua's helpful suggestions, the world becomes more colorful and beautiful, as does Heaven. Children will feel completely at home in the "great beyond" with its overstuffed chairs, vacuum cleaners, and framed photographs on the walls. Heaven's inhabitants are also very much like the people they know. (Everybody has at least one Shaniqua in the neighborhood.) The vibrant oil paintings are cartoonlike in style, with a quiet humor that reflects the playful text. The main characters are African American but there is great diversity among the "Hallelujah Angelic Choir." As in Patricia McKissack's Mirandy and Brother Wind (Knopf, 1988), the dialogue is in a casual dialect, making it seem even more approachable. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of all is the way that God and the Heavenly community cooperate to get the job of Creation finished as perfectly as possible. While this is not your average Bible story, it is one that is not to be missed. It's unique, inspired, and truly cool.-Torrie Hodgson, Burlington Public Library, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.