Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Review: The Lion and the Mouse

A Book Review of:

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney 

This book is the 2010 winner of the Caldecott Award. It's a prestigious award given by the American Library Association, and this book is fully deserving of it.

Image from

This wordless picture illustrates the tale of Aesop's fable "The Lion and the Mouse." In this classic moral story, a mouse is mercifully spared by a lion who catches her in his paw. Later, the mouse has a chance to repay his kind deed by saving the great beast from a hunter's ropes by chewing through them with her sharp teeth.

Pinkney, J. (2009). The lion and the mouse. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. 

"...the attention to details like texture and expression is exquisite."
This book gives Aesop's classic fable the silent treatment, but in a great way. The wordless book lets you focus your whole attention on the intricate and colorful watercolors that Jerry Pinkney presents. Various forms of onomatopoeia are the only words in the book, which act more as sensory aides than actual text. The way he sets each scene is precise and meticulous, and the attention to details like texture and expression is exquisite. As it is a wordless book, he also does a great job of moving the viewer from one scene to the next, drawing the viewer's eyes further into his pages.  A variety in presentation also helps the reader not to become bored with the images, presenting them in a variety of different frames-- sometimes with a full two-page spread devoted to the narrative, sometimes several smaller more intimate frames. Similarly, Pinkney uses various perspectives to tell his story, showing it from the eyes of the lion himself and the mouse at his feet, wordless emphasizing the moral of the story. Jerry Pinkney, with his first Caldecott win, proves that magnificent high-quality picture books can be just that-- pictures.

Professional Reviews:

From Publisher's Weekly:
"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."
[Review of the book The lion and the mouse, by J. Pinkney]. (2009, July 27). Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved from
From Kirkus' Reviews:
"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."

[Review of the book The lion and the mouse, by J. Pinkney]. (2009, August 1). Kirkus' Reviews. Retrieved from

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