Psalms of Wonder: Poems from the Book of Songs

By Carey Wallace, illustrated by Khoa Le. Flyaway Books, 2023. 64 pages. $20/hardcover; $9.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 6–12.

In Psalms of Wonder: Poems from the Book of Songs, poet Carey Wallace was inspired to turn 29 psalms excerpted from the Bible into prayer-poems for young people ages six to twelve (and for us “children” of all ages). Inspired also is a sensitive storybook artist, Khoa Le, who illustrates each psalm with visual wonders: living mountains; fields; flowers; stars; creatures; and always, children who are playing, praying, dancing, and sharing the divine creation together. A Spanish version, Salmos de asombro: Poemas del libro de cánticos, is also available from the publisher.

The biblical psalms were originally sung; they were a songbook, but by now we’ve mostly lost the music. Carey Wallace invites music back into her selection of psalms, which she indeed calls songs. Remaining faithful to the texts, she reshapes them in musical ways, with rhythms and rhymes appealing to children that invite reading out loud.

What stories are the psalms telling? They tell of our whole adult relationship with God, in all our emotions from gratitude to despair, anger to tenderness, and fear to wonder that Carey Wallace conveys in words and Khoa Le paints in images. The psalms are gathered into six chapters: Songs of Wonder, of Courage, Comfort, Joy, Protection, and Love. Here is a sampling:

  • Songs of Wonder: “When I look into the heavens that you made with your hands . . . I can only wonder why you love us so much and why you would give your world to us” (Psalm 8).
  • Songs of Courage: “Who can make me afraid? . . . God shelters me in God’s own tent on days when trouble comes” (Psalm 27).
  • Songs of Comfort: “You took my sad song and turned it into a dance . . . you wrapped me up with your joy” (Psalm 30).
  • Songs of Love: “If I fly to heaven, there you are! In the depths, you are there, too. If I soar on the wings of the dawn . . . your hand leads me even there” (Psalm 139).

The author cannot altogether avoid the difficult adult themes that recur throughout the psalms: war, enemies, anger, fear, and despair. Her gentle, poetic language—along with the illustrator’s gentle images—help convey these themes to children in a way that is not threatening. Wallace and Le have created a book that invites grownups to share the psalms with children, the Bible’s own Book of Songs. Perhaps grownups and children together will discover new music.

Ken Jacobsen has lived, served, and taught in Quaker schools and communities for many years. He seeks to share the life of the Spirit in retreats at Friends Center in Barnesville, Ohio, and in other Friends settings. Ken is a member of Stillwater Meeting in Barnesville.

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