Joseph’s Cradle is a deceptively simple story with universal appeal. Written and illustrated by Jude Daly, it re-imagines a real-life experience that happened in Australia and re-frames it in the context of a small African village. The African proverb tells us that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and this story illustrates just how communities and individuals interact and grow together.
When the big tree that stands in the middle of Joseph’s village blows down one stormy night, he takes the damaged wood and transforms it into a beautifully carved cradle for his new baby. Soon, each new-born will use that cradle and have their name carved on it. The villagers create a brand-new tradition, out of unforeseen adversity, and transform their situation. But when a new tragedy strikes, it seems that the cradle will be lost forever. All ends well, and the villagers are brought even closer by the very forces that seemed to threaten them.
Jude Daly’s illustrations depict the gentle countryside and the everyday activities of the villagers with lovely use of colour. There is plenty to prompt discussion about faraway lands, different customs and how all communities and families create traditions that keep us close. Even those traditions that seem very old began somewhere. Life brings about change and renewal which can prompt people to be wonderfully inventive. Joseph’s Cradle is a heart-warming reminder that we may not always be able to control everything that happens to us, but we can create ties and tell tales that bind.