The Lion and the Mouse – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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By Jerry Pinkney

Published by Hatchette Book Group, 2009

Ages: 2-8

Themes: fable, kindness, unlikely paring

Awards: Caldecott Medal, 2010

40 pages

Opening Lines:

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.

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15 Responses to The Lion and the Mouse – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Jerry Pinkney’s work is magical. I love this version’s addition with the mouse using part of the rope for its nest. A great book.

  2. Aren’t these illos GORGEOUS?

  3. clarbojahn says:

    I remember reading this book to my boys when they were growing up. it is really cute. Thanks for reintroducing it to us. 🙂

  4. What a gorgeous cover. And, I can only imagine the illustrations. I love fable’s and the message for kids about doing something good and how it can come back to you. Also reminded me of Aslan in Narnia and how the mice nibbled away at the rope. Love your selection today! It is so you!

  5. Ooooooh! I’m writing a chapter book based on the African savanna. . .I’m checking this one out. Thanks, Joanna!

  6. Cathy says:

    Yep, that’s a perfect book!

  7. I LOVELOVELOVE that cover and have been meaning to read this book for ages! It just looks SO beautiful! Thanks so much for adding it to our list, Joanna 🙂

  8. I like some of Aesop’s less heard of fables, like the Fox and the Stork/Crane. I love the cover! 😀

  9. What a great story and amazing illos!

  10. That cover is amazing! Do you know what technique he used for his art? It almost looks like a photograph.

  11. Amazing cover. (But then, it IS Jerry Pinkney…) This book sounds excellent. Thank you, Joanna.

  12. Good choice! Jerry’s art was just on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His work is even more amazing up-close.

  13. Looks perfect in many ways. Love the cover too.

  14. Rhythm says:

    This is such a beautiful book!! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Bobbi Miller says:

    I LOVE this book! This is a wonderful review of a marvelous book. Thank you!

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