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The Tortoise or the Hare

The Tortoise or the Hare

5.0 1
by Toni Morrison, Joe Cepeda (Illustrator), Slade Morrison

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Nobel Prize recipient Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison breathe new life into a classic Aesop’s fable.

In the well-known tale of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” everyone remembers that “slow and steady wins the race”—or does it? In this energetic retelling of a favorite fable, it’s the speedy Hare who crosses the finish line


Nobel Prize recipient Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison breathe new life into a classic Aesop’s fable.

In the well-known tale of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” everyone remembers that “slow and steady wins the race”—or does it? In this energetic retelling of a favorite fable, it’s the speedy Hare who crosses the finish line first, but it’s Tortoise who has the tale to tell when he discovers that the race, not the winning, is what matters most. While winning is important, isn’t making a true friend the best prize of all?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the Morrisons' updated version of this Aesop's fable, Jimi Hare and Jamey Tortoise try to spin their story with the media before the race. "But what story pleases your readers the most," Jamey asks a reporter, "the winner who loses or the loser who wins?" The reporter, an exuberant fox in a party dress, responds, "Oh, they're both important.... But for overall satisfaction, it's when the winner loses." After all the hype, the ending is remarkably anticlimactic--unlike in the original, Jimi comes in first, while Jamey plods in second. The traditional message about perseverance is lost to a murky idea about gaming the system to get what you want: the crown for Jimi, the headline for Jamey. Although the animals are portrayed as parallel misfits--outcast for their quick moves and quick mind--and would seem ideal companions, that development is left to a throwaway final scene. "It's not who wins," the authors conclude. "It's when the runners become good friends." The oil paintings by Cepeda (who illustrated the Morrisons' Peeny Butter Fudge) vibrate with life and color, providing much of the story's energy. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Cheryl Williams Chang
Jimi Hare is the fastest hare around town. Whenever he raced anyone, he won. And because he always won, the other animals said he was no fun. Jamey Tortoise is the smartest tortoise around town. He could outsmart everyone. And because he was so smart, the other animals said he had no heart. One day a race was announced in town. The winner would receive a gold crown. Both Jimi and Jamey signed up. All the animals in town knew how the race was supposed to end, but this wasn't that story. Skill and knowledge can lead to surprising results. There is a little twist in the story that changes the ending. In this version of the tortoise and the hare, there are two winners and a new friendship results. Friendship, strategy, and speed are subjects covered in this fun read. Attractive illustrations and an easy-to-read font are incorporated in this picture book. This is a refreshing new idea about an old tale. Elementary schools will enjoy this book in a library or a social studies class. Reviewer: Cheryl Williams Chang
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Jimi Hare is fast and Jamey Tortoise is smart. Everyone avoids them, calls them names, and demeans their talents as tricks. When Jimi and Jamey sign up for a race, one practices while the other plans. The tortoise is told that reversals, such as the winner who loses, make the most satisfying newspaper story. The hare hears that the largest crowd gets more attention than the loudest cheers. On the day of the race, the tortoise travels on bus, train, and plane, while the hare dances, runs, and invents new stunts to draw the crowd. Though Jimi Hare crosses the finish line first, all who know Aesop's fable understand the headline—"WINNER LOSES! LOSER WINS!" Giving a new twist to an old tale, these two lonely and talented characters eventually become friends. Any reading of this tale will depend on knowledge of Aesop's fable. Illustrations are rendered in oil paints showing bright animated characters against textured backgrounds. Occasional rhymes ("Because he always won, they said he was no fun") enliven the text. This contemporary retelling should spark interesting discussions.—Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN
Kirkus Reviews
Authors and illustrator combine forces again in this umpteenth version of the classic tale (Peeny Butter Fudge, 2009). Neither Jimi Hare nor Jamey Tortoise is popular. J. Hare is too fast for anyone to keep up: His running is "too quick, / a trick!" J. Tortoise, on the other hand, is too smart: He's "too quick, / a trick!" In preparation for the coming race, Hare exercises and Tortoise strategizes. Both hold phone interviews with a foxy reporter, and then it's off to the starting line. J. Tortoise avails himself of trains and boats and planes while J. Hare performs stunts. There's no surprise at the finish line, only in the newspaper headline, which proclaims "Winner loses! Loser wins!" Both contestants are happy and go off hand in hand, because what matters is friendship—which, bafflingly, appears to erupt spontaneously at the end. The Morrisons seem to be sending messages about crafty news manipulation and the absurdity of athletic competition. But is this the appropriate audience? Cepeda's oil paintings are colorful and appropriately frenetic, but the story is just too diffuse and confusing. (Picture book. 4-7)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.38(w) x 11.16(h) x 0.40(d)
AD530L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize–winning American author, editor, and professor. Her contributions to the modern canon are numerous. Some of her acclaimed titles include: The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature 1993.

Slade Morrison was born in Ohio and educated in New York City. He studied art at SUNY Purchase and collaborated with his mother, Toni Morrison, on five books for children.

Joe Cepeda is the illustrator of many award-winning picture books, including Peeny Butter Fudge and The Tortoise or the Hare by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, What a Truly Cool World by Julius Lester, Mice and Beans by Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley. Mr. Cepeda received his BFA in illustration from California State University, Long Beach. His illustrations have appeared in publications such as the Los Angeles Times; Buzz, Inc. Magazine; and Latina Magazine.

Brief Biography

Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan
Date of Birth:
February 18, 1931
Place of Birth:
Lorain, Ohio
Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

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The Tortoise or the Hare 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is sooooooo awesome