The Horn Book
* "By retelling Aesop's fable entirely in his signature pencil and watercolor art, Pinkney encourages closer exploration of the pleasing detail with which he amplifies it... It will be a challenge for libraries to make every gorgeous surface available, but it's a challenge worth taking on."
From the Publisher
* "Pinkney enriches this classic tale of friendship with another universal theme - family - affectingly illustrated in several scenes as well as in the back endpapers... 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."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "A nearly wordless exploration of Aesop's fable of symbiotic mercy that is nothing short of masterful... Unimpeachable."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "Pinkney's luminous art, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil, suggests a natural harmony... The ambiguity that results from the lack of words in this version allows for a slower, subtle, and ultimately more satisfying read. Moments of humor and affection complement the drama. A classic tale from a consummate artist."—School Library Journal, starred review
* "By retelling Aesop's fable entirely in his signature pencil and watercolor art, Pinkney encourages closer exploration of the pleasing detail with which he amplifies it... It will be a challenge for libraries to make every gorgeous surface available, but it's a challenge worth taking on."—The Horn Book, starred review
The art of Jerry Pinkney's new picture book is commanding enough to do without the author's name or even the title on the front cover…Winner of five Caldecott Honors, Pinkney has always seemed happier drawing animals than people. Look, in his 2007 retelling, at his studied Little Red Riding Hood next to his lively Wolf. His beasts are not humans in disguise; while both the lion and the mouse have emotions and intelligence in their eyes, they are animal in nature. We don't know why the lion lets the mouse go free or why the mouse nibbles the lion out of the net planted by the men (poachers? wardens?) from the jeep. But it's actions in this case that count. That's the moral of the story.
The New York Times
…[a] beautiful new rendition of…Aesop's fable…Readers unfamiliar with the tale will easily understand it from the carefully sequenced images; those who have already encountered it will experience it anew.
The Washington Post
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. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Here, Pinkney is audacious, courageous, or simply imaginative enough to retell the classic Aesop fable without text. Very few natural sound effects like the hoot of an owl, the scratching of the mouse's teeth as it chews the ropes and the "RRRRRROAARRRR" of the captured lion are all that are necessary. His animated renderings of the African animals along with the two hunters draw us immediately into the familiar story. Even the paper jacket is textless; the title is only on the spine. The front of the book's actual cover introduces the two main characters in portraits, with only "&" in between and the name of the illustrator. The back of the cover and the front end pages offer different pictures of the lion amid the other animals. The rear end pages visualize the happy ending with the lion family strolling along and the mouse family riding on the lion's back. The illustrations range from double-page spreads to framed or unframed images on single pages. They vary in size but not intensity. The close-up of the lion in the trap is almost a psychological study. As a master of the media, Pinkney handles pencil and transparent watercolors with added colored pencils to create naturalistic characters while avoiding the strictures of photorealism. This is a stunning tour de force. A note from Pinkney discusses his relation to the story and his reasons for this version. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3—This story starts on the cover with the glorious, golden countenance of a lion. No text is necessary to communicate the title: the direction of the beast's gaze and the conflicted expression on his tightly cropped face compel readers to turn the book over, where a mouse, almost filling the vertical space, glances back. The endpapers and artist's note place these creatures among the animal families of the African Serengeti. Each spread contributes something new in this nearly wordless narrative, including the title opening, on which the watchful rodent pauses, resting in one of the large footprints that marches across the gutter. In some scenes, Pinkney's luminous art, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil, suggests a natural harmony, as when the cool blues of the sky are mirrored in the rocks and acacia tree. In other compositions, a cream-colored background focuses attention on the exquisitely detailed and nuanced forms of the two main characters. Varied perspectives and the judicious use of panels create interest and indicate time. Sounds are used sparingly and purposefully—an owl's hoot to hint at offstage danger or an anguished roar to alert the mouse of the lion's entrapment. Contrast this version with Pinkney's traditional treatment of the same story (complete with moral) in Aesop's Fables (North-South, 2000). The ambiguity that results from the lack of words in this version allows for a slower, subtle, and ultimately more satisfying read. Moments of humor and affection complement the drama. A classic tale from a consummate artist.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
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. (author's note) (Picture book. 3-6)