The Lion and the Mouse

By JERRY PINKNEY

The award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney exceeds all expectations with this almost wordless retelling of Aesop?s fable about a mouse who repays a lion’s mercy by gnawing the fibers of a snare that entraps him. Pinkney sets this timeless tale in the African Serengeti, populating the pages with the flora and fauna of the region. This unique ecosystem — joining marshland with plains — seem to glow with gold and green, for Pinkney’s watercolors are infused with translucent light. His extensive research into the Serengeti is apparent without being overwhelming, bringing to life details from tiny ants to a camouflaged amphibians resting in the native grasses. A panorama of African animals — lion lounging front and center — immediately set the scene in the front endpapers, while the title page displays the other featured player, the mouse, whose miniscule size is emphasized as it perches in the dried mud of the lion?s paw print. Pinkney?s page-turns have a cinematic quality: we first view the landscape from behind the mouse from her point-of-view, low to the ground as the sun rises on the plains. Frightened by a hunting owl, she leaps beyond the frame into further danger, disturbing the lion at rest. The only words that interrupt this purely visual storytelling are hand-lettered animal sounds so that the readers can squeak, shriek and roar along with the animals. The result should delight all ages — even the youngest can glean that the tiniest among us can be of service, that no act of kindness is wasted and that small acts have large repercussions. An exquisite detail that should not be missed: if one peeks behind the dust jacket there a bonus painting on the back cover — an homage to Edward Hicks?s Peaceable Kingdom recast with the animals of the Serengeti.