The Lifeboat that Saved the World

Ages: 8 and upPublisher: Thames & Hudson Inc Author: Irving FinkelIllustrator: Dylan Giles


A man is told by God to build a giant lifeboat in advance of a massive flood that will destroy all life on Earth outside the boat. Sound familiar? Actually, this book is not about Noah’s Ark. It is the story of Atra-hasis, the wise Mesopotamian hero whose actions are chronicled in early cuneiform tablets. When God Enlil decided he had had enough of mankind’s incessant noise and smelliness, none of the other gods dared stand up to his temper. Only the tricky God Enki, friend to humanity, was quick enough to concoct a plan to counteract Enlil’s plan for destruction. He slyly reminded the gods that there would be no more sacrifices or prayer if all life was wiped out and convinced them to allow him to communicate with Atra-hasis in order to prepare for life after the Flood.

What makes this gently humorous version of the Flood story interesting is its difference from the Noah’s Ark story that might be more familiar to readers. In this Mesopotamian version, mankind is not evil or depraved; Atra-hasis’s entire community helps him to build his boat, unaware that they are soon to be swept away. His three sons, assigned the job of making the comprehensive list of animals, squabble over who has the neatest handwriting to carve the clay cuneiform tablets. Their mother, meanwhile, wonders whether they couldn’t just quietly leave out the mosquitoes, a question that many readers have surely asked themselves. Young lovers of world mythology will enjoy this creative retelling of a beloved story.

Naomi Lesley ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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