Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
Aesop's Fable told without words
For modern readers, Aesop's Fables are a mixed bag.
Written literally thousands of years ago, some of them seem pretty irrelevant today. The morals in some are completely contradictory to the morals in others. And more than a few of the fables voice sentiments that we would consider morally repugnant in the modern day.
And yet, some of them still hold a great deal of charm. The Lion and the Mouse, with its moral, "An Act of Kindness Is Never Wasted," is one of those good ones. (Click the link to read an English translation of the original.)
n other words, author-illustrator Jerry Pinkney, who won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for this version of the fable, picked a winner.
(This isn't Pinkney's only crack at Aesop. In this version he illustrates over 60 of Aesop's Fables.)
Aesop's work is famously concise, but Pinkney takes things a step further by creating a completely wordless book. With a stunning series of watercolors he tells a timeless tale of one good turn deserving another.
A mouse, running from a hungry owl, stumbles instead into the lair of a male lion, king of the beasts.
The lion considers this convenient snack, helpless in his paws, and then deigns to let it go.
The mouse, returning to her nest, turns out to be a mom. (This is a beautiful touch that Pinkney added to the fable.) The lion's small kindness has saved a whole family.
The lion, meanwhile, is going about his business. His business, though, is destined to be put to an end by a couple of hunters who have laid a trap that the lion stumbles into and is caught fast within.
The helpless ROAR he lets out echoes across the savannah...and is heard by the mouse. She runs to her benefactor and finds him in a ropy predicament she's uniquely suited to nibble her way through.
The wordlessness of Pinkney's rendering can turn this story into a beautiful dialogue between you and your child. After the lion is freed, and the tiny creature stands eye to eye with the mighty, you can discuss what they might be saying to each other.
In a nice little touch, Pinkney shows the mouse bringing a scrap of nibbled rope back to her nest. You can bet she'll have a story to tell about it as well, and it'll be fun to hear your child tell it.
Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse features the best of humanity in a simple Aesop's Fable.
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