Monday, August 6, 2012

The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (2009)

The Lion and the Mouse won the 2012 Caldecott Medal.  Probably deservedly so - the illustrations are stunning.  Pencil, watercolor and colored pencil.  The story is wordless - usually not my favorite genre - but the story from Aesop is so familiar that it doesn't really need any words at this point.  Pinkney's illustrations do more than enough to tell the story.   It's an African setting from beginning to end (almost certainly not Aesop's original intent; lions lived in Greece at that time).  Pinkney's Africa is hot and warm, with much yellow and green.  You can hear the bugs buzzing away, hear the birds chirp, the monkeys chattering.  It's a good illustrator that can bring to life not just the visual, but sights and sounds too.  He plays around a lot with perspective too, which I like in a picture book.

 I like Pinkney's note at the end:  "The story offers  far more than a simple moral of how the meek can trump the mighty... both animals are equally large at heart: the courageous mouse,and the lion who must rise above his beastly nature to set his small prey free."  That is what is so fascinating about Aesop - the moral ambiguity and the various morals that you can take from any given story.  As my partner Scott pointed out "Just like the Bible."

This is one of those books that librarians ruin with their tape and covers.  The story starts on the end papers, but god forbid we leave them alone.  No, a cover always has to be taped over.  Jeesh.


The Lion and the MouseThe Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wordless picture books are rarely a favorite of mine, but when they are done really well, they are truly magical and can transport you someplace else.  Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse drops you right into the hot, yellow heart of Africa, retelling the 2,600 year old fable using only pencil, watercolor, colored pencil and his incredible gift of illustrative storytelling.  Visually stunning, you can almost smell the African savanna, hear the bugs buzzing away and the giraffes galloping, feel the hot sun.   I loved what Pinkney had to say about the fable at the end:   "The story offers  far more than a simple moral of how the meek can trump the mighty... both animals are equally large at heart: the courageous mouse,and the lion who must rise above his beastly nature to set his small prey free."  Profound stuff for a wordless picture book!


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