by Jerry Pinkney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 2009
review copy provided by the publisher
You've really got to see this book, to hold it in your hands and look closely at the illustrations for yourself.
First you'll look at the lion on the title-free front of the dust jacket. You'll follow his eyes to the back of the dust jacket and smile at the mouse you find there. Next, you'll open the book and look at the endpapers. In the front, they'll speak to you of the African setting of the story. Flip to the back, and you'll be thinking of the importance of family. Just for fun, you'll take the dust jacket off and be delighted to find two different paintings on the front and back covers of the book. (How on earth are libraries going to make all of these before-you-open-the-book parts of the book accessible to patrons?!?)
This wordless retelling of Aesop's fable of the Lion and the Mouse begins with the mouse escaping by a whisker from an owl. In her distracted state, she runs up the back of a lion who uncharacteristically allows her to go free. When she hears the roar of the lion captured in a rope net, she doesn't think twice. She runs to his aid and chews the ropes until he's freed. Watch for the mouse (and her whole clan) on the back of the lion again at the end of the book. And make sure you save a giggle for the lion cub holding onto dad's tail as they walk.
In the artist's note, Pinkney writes about the big hearts of both of these characters, about the power of both the life-changing decisions of the lion to free the mouse and of the mouse to reciprocate and free the lion. He writes of the importance of the setting, the African Serengeti of Tanzania and Kenya, for which he has curiosity, reverence and concern, and of family (so obvious in the endpapers).
I'll be surprised if this book is passed over by the Caldecott committee...