Writer Adele Bibb Colvin, Artist Peyton Hamilton Carmichael Retell Biblical Stories Through Eyes of a Donkey
Saturday, November 22, 2008
GREG GARRISON, Religion Editor, Birmingham News
Back in 1998, Birmingham writer Adele Bibb Colvin and artist Peyton Hamilton Carmichael released a Christmas story from a donkey’s point of view. “The Story of Jesus as Told in The Donkeys’ Tales,” published by Crane Hill of Birmingham, turned out to be a local best-seller. “This came out 10 years ago in paperback and it was our biggest-selling book that year,” said Jake Reiss, owner of The Alabama Booksmith. “It’s really well done.” Colvin and Carmichael regained the publishing rights to the book and got a deal to reprint it from regional publisher Pelican of Gretna, La. The book was reissued in hardcover on Oct. 1. Reiss said he has continued to hear requests for “The Donkeys’ Tales” over the years and plans an event at his store Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. for the reissue of the book.
“I’m anticipating a huge crowd,” Reiss said. “It’s been unavailable for 10 years, there’s been a built-up demand and it’s now available in hardback. I really think it’s going to be big time.” The book has received holiday gift-themed reviews in national denominational publications Episcopal Life and The Living Church. Colvin and Carmichael have written and illustrated two more books as part of a series. Pelican will release an Easter book, “The Donkey’s Easter Tale,” on Feb. 1. Another sequel, “The Donkey of Tarsus,” follows the story of the Apostle Paul through the eyes of his donkey. That one has not been scheduled for release yet.
But the author and illustrator are happy their storytelling donkeys are kicking up so much interest. It all started when Colvin pondered the presence of donkeys in the story of Jesus.
“Twice in Jesus’ life a donkey is mentioned,” she said. “It occurred to me, `I wonder if these donkeys are related?'”
In her mind, they were.
Colvin imagines that the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus turns out to be the grandparent of the Palm Sunday donkey that carries Jesus into Jerusalem for his crucifixion.
The donkeys pass on their stories to the next generation of donkeys, giving first-hand testimony on the birth and death of Jesus.
“It’s a very moving telling of the Crucifixion,” Carmichael said of the Easter story. “The crucifixion is only shown in a reflection in the donkey’s eye.”
“I get chills when I look at it,” Colvin said.
Colvin, a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and Carmichael, a member of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, hatched the idea of collaborating while on a retreat at Camp McDowell.
“We tried to imagine how Jesus would have been as a child,” Carmichael said of the first book. “I paint Jesus standing on the donkey’s back to pick off a tree. He feeds the donkey. Jesus is fully human and fully divine.”
Carmichael researched the terrain of Jerusalem when she did the book but didn’t travel to Israel until last year. “The Mount of Olives looks perfect,” she said. “I nailed it. We both study the Bible a lot. We tried to get it accurate.”
Well, at least up to the point that the donkeys begin talking, she said.
“Writing these stories and trying to visualize them through the eyes of an animal made me feel I was there,” Colvin said.
Used with permission
Frank Couch, Photographer – Birmingham News Staff