Cover image for How God fix Jonah
How God fix Jonah
Graham, Lorenz B.
Personal Author:
First revised edition.
Publication Information:
Honesdale, Pa. : Boyds Mills Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
156 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
"Text originally published: NY: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1946"--T.p. verso.
Reading Level:
NP Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.5 6 Quiz: 24706 Guided reading level: NR.
Subject Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GR350 .G7 2000 Juvenile Non-Fiction Fairy Tales

On Order



"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.

Author Notes

Lorenz Graham (1902-1989) was a pioneer in African American literature. His books include South Town, North Town, and Whose Town?, a trilogy of novels that were among the first to provide an honest portrayal of the lives of African Americans.

Ashley Bryan is the illustrator of more than thirty titles, many of them with texts he also wrote, retold, or selected. His books have been richly acclaimed and highly honored. Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum won the Coretta Scott King Award, and four more of his titles have been selected Coretta Scott King Honor Books. Mr. Bryan lives on a small island off the coast of Maine.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 3^-5, younger and older for reading aloud. 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. --Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.