A wee African grass mouse "receives top billing" (according to a concluding note) in this visually stunning retelling of Aesop's fable set amid the Aha Hills of Africa.
One day Mouse rushes over a "tawny boulder that lay in his path," which, unfortunately, turns out to be King Lion, who traps Mouse and threatens to eat him. Dangling above Lion's jaws, Mouse begs for release and asserts his bravery. Intrigued, Lion asks Mouse to demonstrate his mettle, and Mouse fiercely tilts with a blade of grass. The amused Lion releases Mouse, who prophesies, "You might need me someday, in a pinch." A year later, Lion becomes hopelessly snared in a hunter's trap, and Mouse rescues him by nibbling the ropes. While the elegantly simple text conveys King Lion's transformation from negligent predator to appreciative victim, the exquisitely rendered brush, ink and pencil illustrations steal the show. Masterful use of white space, dramatic close-ups, arresting perspectives and meticulous respect for natural details memorialize the interaction between Lion and Mouse. Realistic images of Mouse pinned by Lion's claw, suspended above Lion's gaping mouth, acrobatically scaling a blade of grass, helpfully gnawing Lion's ropes and looking Lion in the eye emphasize the humanity of the natural world.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
A favorite ancient fable beautifully presented in the tradition of the finest picture books, this does not replace Jerry Pinkney's transcendent, Caldecott-winningÂ The Lion & the Mouse but proudly takes its place beside it.Â (Picture book. 3 & up)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
In jaunty prose, first-time author Rand Burkert--the illustrator's son--retells Aesop's fable of the mouse who stumbles over a lion ("Sire, I took you for a mountain--honestly!") and pleads for his freedom ("You might need me someday, in a pinch"); the mouse fulfills the prediction by gnawing him free from a hunter's net. "You shall also be free, Mouse!" says the lion. "I grant you liberty to climb every mountain in my kingdom." Caldecott Honoree Nancy Ekholm Burkert's (Snow-White and the Seven Dwarves) exquisitely drafted spreads celebrate the beauty of the African savannah, often from a mouse's-eye view: a graceful blade of grass, a moth's wing, the thorns of the scrubby African shrubs. Moments of drama are sometimes represented in a series of spot illustrations, the present instant in full color, those past or yet to come in pale blue, a lovely way of expressing time on an unmoving page. Creamy paper, a spare layout, and fine typography combine to create an object that reminds readers of the physical pleasures of books; it's a gratifying addition to Nancy Ekholm Burkert's small but treasured oeuvre. All ages. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC
Gr 2-6--It has been far too long since Nancy Ekholm Burkert's work last graced a children's book--Valentine and Orson (Farrar, 1989)--and it is a pleasure to welcome her back with a book rich with her signature meticulous brush lines, compelling display of color, and carefully delineated detail. Each page offers dramatic delight that extends the story. In an unusual but fascinating variation on the Aesop tale, Rand Burkert places Mouse at center stage--after all, as he explains, "Mouse clearly performs the lion's share of the work." With that hypothesis in place, the tale plays out against the well-known plot of Lion trapped in net/Mouse gnawing him free--with the interplay between the two caught in word and image, both subtle and powerful. At the conclusion, the animals part--each to its own special world but each the wiser and kinder for the experience. The illustrations for this spirited tale are nothing less than spectacular: soft colors (predominately in multiple shades of blue) flow across the page, capturing each eventful moment. Choosing the Aha Hills (between Botswana and Namibia) for her setting, the artist imbues the scenes with the fauna and flora of this region. At times, she incorporates the whole page, using white space to great effect as Mouse cavorts among trailing vines; in another mesmerizing spread a blue/black baobab tree, set against a blazing cinnamon-orange setting sun, captures the moment before Lion's undoing. For storyhours, one-on-one sharing, family read-alouds, or African studies, this book will be appreciated by a wide audiences.--Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA[Page 70]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.