Tug-of-War

Overview

A Nigerian folktale — one of the first picture books John Burningham ever illustrated — comes to life again with a new text by the venerable illustrator.

Hare, Hippopotamus, and Elephant all live together in the forest. But often, when Hippopotamus and Elephant have nothing better to do, they tease Hare and say horrid things to him. When Hare finally gets fed up with them, he conceives a plan: he will challenge each of the massive creatures to a tug-of-war competition. On either...

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Overview

A Nigerian folktale — one of the first picture books John Burningham ever illustrated — comes to life again with a new text by the venerable illustrator.

Hare, Hippopotamus, and Elephant all live together in the forest. But often, when Hippopotamus and Elephant have nothing better to do, they tease Hare and say horrid things to him. When Hare finally gets fed up with them, he conceives a plan: he will challenge each of the massive creatures to a tug-of-war competition. On either side of the trees, Elephant and Hippopotamus pull and tug all through the night, incredulous that Hare could be so strong! With cheeky wit and his signature illustrative style, John Burningham makes the case that even brute strength can be outweighed by brains — and a quick getaway.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Sarah Harrison Smith
Burningham's new text is typically unsentimental; school-age boys will probably find it outrageously funny.
Publishers Weekly
In 1968, Burningham—now known for Mr. Gumpy’s Outing and Granpa, among other stories—illustrated Letta Schatz’s The Extraordinary Tug-of-War, a retold West African folktale. This edition reprints the original illustrations with a new retelling from Burningham himself. Hare, the smallest of three creatures, faces merciless teasing. Hippopotamus calls Hare “a tiny, wimpy thing” and a “weak little fool,” and Elephant trumpets, “Hare, you really are a feeble idiot.” Such insults may give readers pause, yet they show why Hare is keen to defeat his tormenters using his superior wits. Hare finds Elephant in the forest, challenges him to a tug-of-war, and gives him an end of rope. Hare meets Hippopotamus at the river and gives him the other end. Sight unseen, both creatures believe Hare is pulling against them, and fail to realize their error until Hare “was already miles away, up in the hills.” Burningham’s energetic yet shadowy mixed-media drawings, in aqueous hues of blue, brown, and green, recall the oily lithography of the 1960s, yet hold up well in this still-relevant fable. Ages 5–8. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
Burningham’s new text is typically unsentimental; school-age boys will probably find it outrageously funny.
—The New York Times Book Review
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Hare, who lives in the forest with Elephant and Hippopotamus, is tired of the mean teasing he gets from them. He decides to teach them a lesson. He first challenges Elephant to a tug-of-war, giving him one end of a rope to pull when he feels a tug. Next he does the same to Hippopotamus, telling him to pull on the other end of the rope. And so the two begin to pull. Having scorned Hare, neither can believe how hard he seems to be pulling. Through the day and night they pull, but neither wants to admit that Hare is stronger. But finally they tug in enough to see each other and realize they have been tricked. Angrily they try together to catch Hare, but he is far away. He may not be as strong, but he is "much more clever." All three characters live in double-page forests that tend to change color as the tugging continues, shifting between greens and blues and even to a rich red as "...they pulled through sunset." Burningham has retold the story here from forty-five years ago; the textured illustrations have lost none of their emotional effectiveness nor have the characters lost any of their sculpturesque vigor. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews
Burningham charges up selected and rearranged illustrations from one of his early works with a new text that adds considerable bite. Retold in the 1968 version (titled The Extraordinary Tug-of-War) by Letta Schatz from an Ethiopian tale, the story features a clever hare who challenges scornful Hippo and Elephant to a tug of war, then puts them on opposite ends of the same rope. Burningham does away with the original's now-stodgy folklorese: "And Elephant would bellow, billowing with laughter, ‘Ho, Hare! I hear you are called "Big Ears!" Big Ears! You! Please look at me!' " He replaces it with contemporary, and much more abusive, language: "And Elephant would say, ‘Hare, you really are a feeble idiot, with your twitching nose and whiskers. That's all you have.' " By the time the animal dupes discover the deception and vow revenge ("Let's get the little runt!"), Hare is long gone. In contrast to the sharp tone of the text, though the trim size of this new edition is only about an inch more all around, the spattered, scribbly illustrations look overly enlarged, with diffuse lines and dimly lit, indistinct details. No matter: They still serve to convey the thwarted bullies' bulk and rage. Young audiences will relish the outcome of this simple trickster tale and likely be startled into laughter by its edgy language. The little runts. (no source note) (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763665753
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 487,866
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

John Burningham is one of the world’s most recognized and beloved children’s book creators. His work has received countless awards, including two Kate Greenaway Medals and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor for It’s a Secret! With Candlewick Press, he is also the author of There’s Going to Be a Baby, illustrated by his wife, Helen Oxenbury, and his work is featured in the collectors’ volume John Burningham. He lives in London.

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