Mouse & Lion, Aesop retold by Ran Burkert, pictures by Nancy Ekholm Burkert (Michael di Capua Books, 2011)
Many of us thought we knew Aesop’s tale about the small demonstrating power of kindness to the mighty even before the story was revised in an magnificent picture book published last year. But you’ll find something altogether new to wonder at in Mouse & Lion, which, the author explains in a note at the end, seems a better title, with the small hero getting top billing. Rand Burkert’s familiarity with Aesop, in particular his depiction of lions, is shown in this note, but of course it’s the text itself that wins us over, along with Nancy Ekholm Burkert’s gorgeous detail. She studied four-striped African grass mice for the hero, and I was happy that a lion’s paw takes up most of the page. In a tender scene, certain to win over young readers, Mouse tries to show off his power by attacking a leaf of grass with amusingly unimpressive results.
While Aesop traditionally ends with a moral, here we’re offered a vision of how Lion isn’t just chastened, but literally sees the world in a whole new way, making note of the many small creatures that gorgeously fill the last pages.
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