Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Listen Up! Listen Up!

Who's Got Game? The Lion or the Mouse? by Toni and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

A retelling of Aesop's fable The Lion and the Mouse, this version also takes us back to the jungle. Told in rhyme and with more of a comic book layout then traditional picture book layout, we get to see a different side to this fable. Lion is the biggest and strongest animal in the jungle and he knows it. He says, "Listen up! Listen up! No ifs, maybes, ands, or buts. I am the king all over the land. I do what I like. I do what I can. In this place I make the laws because, because of my mighty paws." Yet, when he gets hurt with a thorn through his paw no one will stop and help him. Mouse comes along and offers to help as long as lion does not eat him. Mouse pulls out the thorn and they both go home. The next day though mouse starts to act much like lion did, trying to bully people into doing what he wants. The other animals just laugh at him and mouse gets more and more angry. Finally one day he tells lion that he needs his house and throne so the other animals will take him seriously. Lion leaves his home and goes to the plains to live. There he realizes that he was being a bully before mouse helped him and that bullies are really just scared to be themselves.

Interesting spin on a classic story. I enjoyed Morrison's take on the fable and adding in the new lesson about not being a bully. The rhyming is excellent and I think it is great that she and her son are writing books for children, their talent is extraordinary and kids will benefit from reading masterful rhymes. The illustrations are not what I would have chosen. They are every rough and almost messy looking. The characters do not have clean lines and you get the sense that it was not supposed to be perfect, just as the characters are not perfect. In addition the illustrations have a rounded comic feel to them that adds to the overall feeling that something is not quite right. I do like the comic book layout, it lends itself very well to the rhyming scheme and helps the reader follow the dialogue. The story is easy to follow and I think kids will have fun listening to the rhyming and even repeating the lion's first phrase or two by the end of the book. I recommend for kids ages 3-6.

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