Monday, September 15, 2008

ABCs: A Peaceable Kingdom

In July 1882, the Shaker Manifesto published the "Rhymes of Animals", which, in an acrostic poem fashion, introduces a whole menagerie of animals in a rhythmic, rhyming way. This rhyme became known as "The Shaker Abecedarius," and presumably was used to teach Shaker children the alphabet in a fun, memorable way. You can see a digital library version of "Rhymes of Animals" as published in the Manifesto here. The author of the "Rhymes of Animals" is acknowledged only as a correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette. Alice and Martin Provensen illustrated The Shaker Abecedarius as A Peaceable Kingdom. The Provensens studied the Shakers while illustrating this book, and they included lovely details of the Shaker lifestyle throughout. Thus we see the Shakers going about their normal daily routines alongside jackals, oppossums, elephants, and badgers. The juxtaposition of animals is entertaining, and seeing them alongside the Shakers, who are not at all alarmed by the lion, the rattlesnake, or the whale, adds a new layer of fun to the text.

The simple drawings and muted colors used by the Provensens support the Shaker aesthetic.
A Peaceable Kingdom: The Shaker Abecedarius, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, published by The Viking Press, 1978.

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