On the African Serengeti, a mouse barely escapes the clutches of a hungry owl. The mouse inadvertently ends up in the paw of a fearsome lion. Surprisingly, the lion lets the mouse go. When the lion is later snared in a trap left by humans, the mouse hears the lion’s roar and answers his call. The mouse works to free the lion, then both go their separate ways.
Jerry Pinkney’s retelling of Aesop’s fable is a wordless picture book. In truth, there are a few onomatopoeia at key moments in the story, but these words are part of the illustrations and not text added later. Pinkney’s illustrations are richly colored and vividly detailed. “Additional African species grace splendid panoramas that balance the many finely detailed, closeup images of the protagonists” (Publishers Weekly 2009). Deep yellows, oranges, and golds sweep across each page, occasionally contrasted by verdant green foliage. There is nothing cartoonish about Pinkney’s illustrations; the animals are drawn realistically, with much respect and care. The medium of pencil, watercolors, and colored pencils on paper and the minutiae of details truly drive the narrative.
This 2010 Caldecott award winner needs no text for readers to understand the story. We never know why the lion chooses to free the mouse. We never know if the humans are poachers, game wardens, or researchers. We never why the mouse chooses to rescue the lion. In this fable, actions speak louder than words and the actions here speak of kindness. A single act of kindness has the potential to create powerful, positive changes. This book provides a wonderful opportunity for parents, teachers, and librarians to discuss with children the concept of random acts of kindness. Some older elementary age children may benefit from a discussion of poachers in the wilds of Africa. Children may also like to discuss different ways that the small can help the big, or the strong can help the weak. With the combination of compelling story and richly detailed illustrations, each child is sure to immerse him or herself in this story of kindness.
Publishers Weekly. July 2009. Publishers Weekly.com. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-316-01356-7. Accessed September 24, 2013.