Hare and Tortoise, by Alison Murray; Candlewick Press, $16.99, 32 pages, all ages.
In Alison Murray’s cheeky retelling of Aesop’s classic fable, Hare (Leapus swifticus) can barely stand still, while Tortoise (Slow and steadicus) could mimic a stone until the end of time. Of course, there is a race, and while we all know who wins, there is a charming twist that makes this version a welcome addition. Murray’s digital renderings of the various creatures are bright and inviting, and are perfectly matched to the active rabbit and the methodical turtle. A charming, impish story be enjoyed at your own pace.
The Grasshopper and the Ants, by Jerry Pinkney; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $18.00, 40 pages, ages 2-6.
Aesop’s fable The Grasshopper and the Ants receives the Pinkney treatment in this gorgeous version of the tale. A plucky grasshopper merrily sings his way through the warm months, while industrious ants toil in preparation for lean times ahead. Here, the artist masterfully employs his usual arsenal of pencil, watercolors and ink to wondrous effect. A double-page spread in the middle of the book actually opens to a triad, where the grasshopper sits in the snow above ground while the ants below are warm and toasty. Unlike some versions of the fable, the grasshopper isn’t left to freeze, but is invited to share his gift of song with the ants, subtly suggesting that everyone has a talent and can be helpful.
Simple, lyrical rhymes bounce along the pages, and serve as a vehicle to invite young readers to explore every nook and cranny in this richly imagined world of tiny creatures. Informative notes detail how nature has always informed the artist’s work and the joy he derives in illustrating the world outside his window. That enthusiasm is readily apparent in every book Pinkey creates, and that spirit reaches out from the pages, beckoning young readers to share in the pleasures of nature by reading beautiful books.
What else is there to say about Jerry Pinkney and his work that hasn’t already been said? He enjoys the distinction among his peers as being the recipient of five Caldecott Honors as well as the winner of the Caldecott Medal in 2010 for the second fable in his Aesop trilogy, The Lion and The Mouse. (I would argue that The Grasshopper and The Ants is a contender for the award in 2015.) In addition, the artist is a five-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award and has been nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.
As the moral of this fable implores, don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today – share this book with little readers now.