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Neil Waldman illustration from The Earth Trembled

And The Earth Trembled

And The Earth Trembled

Illustrated by Neil Waldman
1996, Harcourt Brace & Company

In this retelling based on Islamic tradition, God's loneliness is the impetus for the creation of humans. The Creator meets resistance first from the angels, who point out that a mind concealed in flesh will be "prey to ugly desires" and capable of greed, jealousy, hatred, and destruction. When God sends the archangels to gather clay, Earth objects. Only the angel of death takes the clay, and in return is given the power to take man's soul. Then, at the climax of the creative act, Soul, too, balks at entering Adam's body. In fury, God notes that Soul will both enter and leave the body unwillingly. Adam must be worshipped by the angels, and when the angel Iblis rebels, he is cast out of heaven. Eve is drawn from Adam's side while he sleeps, and both are led to Paradise, where, warned to avoid the wiles of Iblis, they live for 500 years.

Reviews:

In this retelling based on Islamic tradition, God's loneliness is the impetus for the creation of humans. The Creator meets resistance first from the angels, who point out that a mind concealed in flesh will be "prey to ugly desires" and capable of greed, jealousy, hatred, and destruction. When God sends the archangels to gather clay, Earth objects. Only the angel of death takes the clay, and in return is given the power to take man's soul. Then, at the climax of the creative act, Soul, too, balks at entering Adam's body. In fury, God notes that Soul will both enter and leave the body unwillingly. Adam must be worshipped by the angels, and when the angel Iblis rebels, he is cast out of heaven. Eve is drawn from Adam's side while he sleeps, and both are led to Paradise, where, warned to avoid the wiles of Iblis, they live for 500 years. The Islamic prohibition against images of the divine has not been honored by the illustrator, who depicts God as a bearded nude sitting in the clouds. In other respects, Waldman's pointillist style, recalling the Impressionists, is well suited to his subject. The pages are brightly colored, the image of Iblis is appropriately scary, and Paradise is a vision of order in green and blue. The tesserae-like composition is a subtle way to suggest the prophetic "trembling" of the Earth at our creation.
--School Library Journal

Oppenheim's new picture book is based on the same source material from a ninth-century Islamic scholar as Ed Young's Iblis (1994), but it actually precedes Iblis in its expanded tale of the creation of Adam and Eve, in which the angels protest God's decision to put a mind into a body that can hide its evil thoughts. Violence marks humans' beginning as clay is torn from an unwilling earth, and Soul is forced into the body of Adam. God is here depicted as a headstrong, self-centered deity, and although most religion books do not show God in pictures, Waldman draws him as a mundane, Zeus-like cloud figure. The swirling, impressionistic paintings are attractive, and with the dearth of quality Islamic materials available for children (with the references to Muhammad, this version is specifically Muslim), this will make a worthwhile purchase for many libraries. However, since Islam prohibits depictions of the diety, the picture of God may be problematic for some of the book's audience .
-- from Booklist