Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Lion & The Mouse: A Wordless Telling

The Lion & the Mouse

By: Jerry Pinkney
Recommended Ages: 1 and up

The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney is a wordless picture book that retells the Aesop fable of the lion and the mouse. To say that it is gloriously depicted, would be an understatement. Each page is handcrafted in watercolors and pencils, in rich brown and golden hues. Your eyes are drawn in so that you, too, feel as if you are in the wide open spaces of the African Serengeti. It's a visual masterpiece that will enchant adults and children alike.

For those who don't remember the fable, it is the story of a little mouse who escapes from the clutches of a hawk, only to find herself on the back of a large lion. The lion, in turn, grabs the mouse with his enormous paws, toys with her a bit and then lets her go. A few pages later, he finds himself ensnared in an enormous net set by poachers. The mouse sees what has happened and gnaws through the rope, enabling the lion to escape. If my memory serves me correctly, the morals of the story are that even the smallest of friends can prove to be good friends and that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

Jerry Pinkney has done a masterful job recreating Aesop's fable without words. It's a beautiful retelling of the story, with many intricate details on each page. Both the lion and the mouse are depicted realistically from the lion's amber eyes to the itty bitty pink mouse feet. Both animals also have expressions on their faces which allow the reader to see their underlying emotions, without seeming cartoon-like.

A quick word about wordless picture books. When I taught family literacy classes, wordless picture books were one of my favorite books to work with. For parents for whom English wasn't their first language, it was a wonderful way for them to tell a story in their own words to their children. For parents with low literacy skills, they too could tell the story in their own words, with a fluidity that wasn't always possible with regular picture books. And finally (and perhaps most importantly) wordless picture books allow kids to tell YOU the story in their own words. Each time you revisit a book, the story gets more and more elaborate as they allow their imaginations to run loose. A story like The Lion & The Mouse, with its gorgeous pictures, invites you and your child to tell it like you see it. I don't think either of you will be disappointed.

If you are searching for a gift for a young child this holiday season, consider picking up Jerry Pinkney's The Lion & The Mouse. It's exactly the kind of book that you want a child to have in their book collection for years and years.

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