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Ably translated from the French by Shapiro (Romance languages & literature, Wesleyan Univ.), the voices of the animals, birds, insects (and even the occasional human) who populate La Fontaine's fables come alive in rhyme and rhythm that develop the traditional tales. Some rhyme seems technically forced, with line breaks in awkward places: "cheese; it" to rhyme with "seize it"; the awkward "circumspecter" to rhyme with "protector"; "forasmuch, it" coupled with "touch it." The rhythm, on sight reading, is also sometimes uneven: "They tell about two thieves who fought/Over a stolen ass: one thought/It should be kept." Yet somehow these imperfections merely enhance the humor and, when read aloud, both rhyme and rhythm flow well, perhaps even better than more perfect poetic versions. And since these fables are now, as they always have been, at their best in oral performance, that is an asset. For libraries lacking a collection of La Fontaine's fables, needing a new copy, or looking for a comprehensive single volume, this one will do nicely.
—Katherine K. Koenig