By Jerry Pinkney
Published by Hatchette Book Group, 2009
Themes: fable, kindness, unlikely paring
Awards: Caldecott Medal, 2010
Who Who Whooo
While the book does begin with an owl hooting, and we have occasional onomatopoeic animal sounds, this is an almost wordless rendition of one of Aesop’s most well-known fables. The scene- The African Serengeti of Tanzania and Kenya. A wee small mouse escapes the claws of a hungry owl, only to find herself trapped within the paw of a huge lion. The lion releases the mouse on a whim. Unfortunately the lion’s progress is short-lived as it falls prey to poachers and their wicked traps. Before he knows it the lion is caught and bound in thick ropes, high above the ground. Our little mouse comes to the lion’s rescue, and she nibbles the ropes until they give way and the lion is freed. In her mouth she leaves with one of the knots of rope, which she gives her family of tiny babies at home in their nest to play with. The beautiful endpapers depict the lion and his mate and cubs prowling the savannah with the mouse and her family safely perched on the lion’s back. The publication page tells us that, “The full-color artwork for this book has been prepared using pencil, watercolor, and colored pencils on paper.”
Why I like this book:
Isn’t that cover magical? This is a masterpiece of paintings of African flora and fauna. Each animal and plant has been thoroughly researched and rendered in beautiful detail. I appreciate that while Pinkney has given sweet character to the facial expressions of lion and mouse in particular, he has gone for a realistic look. While not a group read-aloud, many children will revel in this visual story-telling – a tale of karma, and even the tiniest of kind acts will somehow have their reward. This is a fabulous addition to units on fables, African wildlife or even perspective and scale.
This lends itself perfectly to the children’s own illustrations of other fables, the most well-known probably being the Hare and the Tortoise.
NB: John Tenniel, Randolph Caldecott, Walter Crane and Arthur Rackham were among the artists who first illustrated the fables, enlivening them with images that turned the stories into visceral hits with young readers.
Two anthologies of Aesop’s Fables for children that I would recommend as resources are: Aesop’s Fables by D. L Ashliman and Aesop’s Fables by Carol Watson & illustrated by Nick Price.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.