Author and illustrator Jerry Pinkney gives a fresh take on a well known Aesop fable in his Caldecott award winning book “The Lion and the Mouse.” Depicted wordlessly through the sounds of animals and wonderful, distinct illustrations it reminds us, adults and children alike, that no act of kindness is ever wasted.
The General Plotline
It follows the original storyline closely, but with touching variation and an emphasis on family. A lion, disturbed from his slumber by a mouse, has a sudden a change of heart after catching his prey and decides to let it go. We then learn that the mouse is not just any mouse-but a mama who then gets to return home to her nest of babies (a change from the original fable). With no words there is no begging or pleading on the mouse’s part-or bargaining on the lions- just great facial expression drawn to clearly show the emotions of each character. The lion’s feelings in particular are shown quite beautifully here as he makes the decision to free the mouse. The Lion later ends up in trouble and his kindness is rewarded when an unlikely rescuer comes to his aid.
The Characters of the Lion and the Mouse
Despite the size difference between the lion and the mouse, both of these main characters are shown as equally important, both with large and commanding presences. The fact that there is no words to tap into personality is irrelevant, the drawings skillfully done in a manner that brings both characters to us clearly, and in some ways brings them to life on an even deeper level then words could.
Both the lion and the mouse are great characters, classic but at the same time different, with a lot for us to learn from each of them.
What Are The Illustrations Like?
Obviously incredibly important in a book without words, Jerry Pinkney more then delivers with his illustrations-he completely breathes life into the tale. His style is unique but at the same time comfortable, not to mention well suited to the retelling of a classic fable. The pictures are complex and detailed, but the expressions clear, and I don’t find the moral is lost in translation, rather the drawings bring a sort new awareness to it by having us process the story in a different manner.
What Are The Catches?
If you were to read this book to a very young child some explaining with words might need to be done-as simple as pointing out what is happening in the pictures-but that doesn’t matter much in my opinion. It is hard to place too much emphasis or explanation on kindness, and most of us point things out to our children if we are reading picture books to them anyways.
A Note On The Author
Jerry Pinkney has received many awards and honors, among them four New York Times Best Illustrated Awards and a nomination for the Hans Christian Andersan Award. He is also the five-time recipient of the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award. He lives with his wife, author Gloria jean Pinkney, in Crotonon-Hudon, New York. To learn more about Jerry Pinkey, visit his website at www.jerrypinkneysstudio.com
Lion and the Mouse: Final Review
I greatly enjoyed this book. I found a new love for stories told with little to no words after reading this and discovering just how clear a book can be with mostly illustration. I thought that the presentation and the authors style of drawing really brought home the moral of the story which, after all, is the core of all Aesop fables. Read this to children of any age really, explain the drawings or let them draw a meaning of their own from the unique experience that this book brings. In my opinion some of the best children’s books are the ones that both adults and children can learn and draw things from. Stories like this can spark reminders in anyone’s imagination about lessons or morals that remain important throughout life; and a grown up can need just as much reminding as a child needs learning about things like kindness.
Tales such as The Lion and the Mouse are retold again and again for a reason, and Jerry Pickneys version is a great way to bring back a timeless fable with an always important moral.
A note on what the awards mentioned mean:
The Caldecott Medal/Award: Randolph Caldecott was a nineteenth-century English Illustrator who transformed children’s books in the Victorian era. The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Coretta Scott King Award: Given to African American authors and illustrators who make an outstanding contribution to education. It also promotes the understanding and appreciation of different cultures and societies.
The New York Times Best Illustrated Award: Awarded annually, The New York Times Book Review selects a panel of judges to choose the best illustrated books of that year.
The Hans-Christian Anderson Award: The International Board on Books for Young People presents this award every other year to a living author and illustrator whose complete works has made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. It is the highest international recognition given to an author and illustrator of children’s books.