Reviews for Lion & the Mouse


Booklist Reviews 2009 July #1
*Starred Review* The intricate lion's face that crowds the cover of Pinkney's latest folktale adaptation is unaccompanied by any title or credits, and that is entirely appropriate--there are no words inside, either. Through illustration alone Pinkney relates the well-known Aesop fable of the mouse who is captured by a lion, only to be unexpectedly released. Then, when the lion finds himself trapped by hunters, it is the mouse who rescues him by gnawing through the twine. Pinkney bends his no-word rule a bit with a few noises that are worked into the art ("Screeeech" when an owl dives; "Putt-Putt-Putt" when the hunters' jeep arrives), but these transgressions will only encourage young listeners to get involved with read-along sessions. And involved they will be--how could they not get drawn into watercolors of such detail and splendor? Pinkney's soft, multihued strokes make everything in the jungle seem alive, right down to the rocks, as he bleeds color to indicate movement, for instance, when the lion falls free from the net. His luxuriant use of close-ups humanizes his animal characters without idealizing them, and that's no mean feat. In a closing artist's note, Pinkney talks about his choice to forgo text. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2009 September
Creatures great and small

Jerry Pinkney’s latest picture book is an absolutely gorgeous example of book making and pictorial storytelling, a wordless book readers will “read” over and over again, each time noticing new treasures in the pictures. The dust jacket places the lion and the mouse head-to-head, the lion on the front cover, the mouse on the back. Take off the dust jacket, and there are additional images: the lion and the mouse on the front cover, still eyeing each other, and on the back cover an African Serengeti group portrait. In the front endpapers, the animals are up, out of their group picture, wandering the Serengeti, the big lion yawning amidst his family.

Turn the page, and the mouse is introduced, standing in a lion’s footprint. And the story proceeds, succeeding brilliantly in what the best picture books are all about—the drama of the turning page. An owl scares the mouse, the mouse runs off and ends up dangling upside down in the clutches of the great lion. This is not a completely wordless book, as there’s a “Grrr” and a “Squeak” here, and other animal sounds and the “putt-putt-putt” of a jeep elsewhere. In a full-page spread, the lion contemplates the mouse, and in the following spread he lowers his paw and lets the mouse return to her family. In the meantime, poachers set their trap, the lion steps into it, and the mouse’s chance to be courageous and repay the lion’s kindness is set up.

In an artist’s note, Pinkney discusses how he was able to capture on the book’s jacket the “powerful space and presence” of both the lion and the mouse. That phrase perfectly captures what makes this book so striking—the space and presence the characters command on the page, and by the end of the tale, the meek mouse and the mighty lion, two spirited creatures in their own ways, have some good family time together, the back endpapers depicting the mouse family hitching a ride on the lion’s back for a stroll on the Serengeti.

Dean Schneider teaches middle school English in Nashville.

Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
By retelling Aesop's fable entirely in his signature pencil and watercolor art, Pinkney encourages closer exploration of the pleasing detail with which he amplifies it. On every page, this beautiful book suggests even more than it tells about its real setting, and about that fabulous world where rescues may happen between lion and mouse. An artist's note is appended. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #6
By retelling Aesop's fable entirely in his signature pencil and watercolor art, Pinkney encourages closer exploration of the pleasing detail with which he amplifies it. The mouse has just escaped an owl when she makes the mistake of running up the lion's back; his decision to let her go, over three full spreads, is all the more eloquent for being wordless. Her dauntless attack on the white hunters' densely knotted rope trap, in which the lion is caught, is related via numerous smaller frames; successful, the mouse takes one tough knot home to her young (as a toy? Or to tell them her story?). On every page, this beautiful book suggests even more than it tells about its real setting, and about that fabulous world where such bargains are made and such rescues may happen. It's a generous rendition: there are character-revealing portraits of the protagonists, unencumbered by text, on the jacket (a regal lion, sumptuous with golden mane, glances anxiously from the front; the doughty mouse, wide-eyed with intelligence, is on the back). On the front of the book itself is a second pair of telling portraits in lieu of a title; there's an African Peaceable Kingdom on the back. One endpaper celebrates the animal-crowded Serengeti setting; the second rounds out the story with the lion and mouse families on a shared outing. It will be a challenge for libraries to make every gorgeous surface available, but it's a challenge worth taking on. Artist's note appended. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 August #1
A nearly wordless exploration of Aesop's fable of symbiotic mercy that is nothing short of masterful. A mouse, narrowly escaping an owl at dawn, skitters up what prove to be a male lion's tail and back. Lion releases Mouse in a moment of bemused gentility and--when subsequently ensnared in a poacher's rope trap--reaps the benefit thereof. Pinkney successfully blends anthropomorphism and realism, depicting Lion's massive paws and Mouse's pink inner ears along with expressions encompassing the quizzical, hapless and nearly smiling. He plays, too, with perspective, alternating foreground views of Mouse amid tall grasses with layered panoramas of the Serengeti plain and its multitudinous wildlife. Mouse, befitting her courage, is often depicted heroically large relative to Lion. Spreads in watercolor and pencil employ a palette of glowing amber, mouse-brown and blue-green. Artist-rendered display type ranges from a protracted "RRROAARRRRRRRRR" to nine petite squeaks from as many mouselings. If the five cubs in the back endpapers are a surprise, the mouse family of ten, perched on the ridge of father lion's back, is sheer delight. Unimpeachable. (author's note) (Picture book. 3-6) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 July #4

Other than some squeaks, hoots and one enormous roar, Pinkney's (Little Red Riding Hood) interpretation of Aesop's fable is wordless--as is its striking cover, which features only a head-on portrait of the lion's face. Mottled, tawny illustrations show a mouse unwittingly taking refuge on a lion's back as it scurries away from an owl. The large beast grabs and then releases the tiny creature, who later frees the lion who has become tangled in a hunter's snare. Pinkney enriches this classic tale of friendship with another universal theme--family--affectingly illustrated in several scenes as well as in the back endpapers, which show the lion walking with his mate and cubs as the mouse and her brood ride on his back. Pinkney's artist's note explains that he set the book in Africa's Serengeti, "with its wide horizon and abundant wildlife so awesome yet fragile--not unlike the two sides of each of the heroes." Additional African species grace splendid panoramas that balance the many finely detailed, closeup images of the protagonists. Pinkney has no need for words; his art speaks eloquently for itself. Ages 3-6. (Sept.)

[Page 61]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 September

PreS-Gr 3--This story starts on the cover with the glorious, golden countenance of a lion. No text is necessary to communicate the title: the direction of the beast's gaze and the conflicted expression on his tightly cropped face compel readers to turn the book over, where a mouse, almost filling the vertical space, glances back. The endpapers and artist's note place these creatures among the animal families of the African Serengeti. Each spread contributes something new in this nearly wordless narrative, including the title opening, on which the watchful rodent pauses, resting in one of the large footprints that marches across the gutter. In some scenes, Pinkney's luminous art, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil, suggests a natural harmony, as when the cool blues of the sky are mirrored in the rocks and acacia tree. In other compositions, a cream-colored background focuses attention on the exquisitely detailed and nuanced forms of the two main characters. Varied perspectives and the judicious use of panels create interest and indicate time. Sounds are used sparingly and purposefully--an owl's hoot to hint at offstage danger or an anguished roar to alert the mouse of the lion's entrapment. Contrast this version with Pinkney's traditional treatment of the same story (complete with moral) in Aesop's Fables (North-South, 2000). The ambiguity that results from the lack of words in this version allows for a slower, subtle, and ultimately more satisfying read. Moments of humor and affection complement the drama. A classic tale from a consummate artist.--Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

[Page 146]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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