The Tortoise & and the Hare is a not quite wordless retelling of the classic fable by 2010 Caldecott Medal winner Jerry Pinkney. As the book begins, a wolf launches the tortoise and the hare off with a rousing "On your marks, get set ... Go!". After that, the only words are the moral of Aesop's story, "Slow and steady wins the race". These words are spread out over a number of page spreads, with the phrase incrementally added to.
Through rich, detailed illustrations, Pinkney shows each creature's side of the race. The hare is fast, reckless, and distractable (the latter to his regret, late in the story). The hare is plodding and determined. When he encounters a log he can't climb over, he simply goes around. When he needs to cross water, he swims. He always keeps moving.
Unlike some other picture books based on fables that I've seen, Pinkney keeps a light touch (helped out by the minimal words). There's no heavy-handed moral tone. Just the conclusion that young readers will see - the hare falling asleep, and the determined tortoise winning the race. That is all, and it is more than enough.
In an author's note at the end of the book, Pinkney explains:
""Slow and steady wins the race" was particularly meaningful in my youth, since I often struggled in school because of dyslexia, but the moral rings truer than ever today. As the pace of our lives continues to speed up, many yearn for a less hurried approach to life."
Indeed, this is a concept that we can all benefit from thinking about, every once in a while.
Pinkney's illustrations, created from "graphite, watercolor, colored pencils, gouache, and pastel", offer a perfect mix of realism and whimsy. The tortoise looks, and moves, like a real tortoise, but wears a blue cap and a red bandana. The hare has the long legs, arms, and ears that one would expect from a hare, but wears a little checkered sweater. The backgrounds that the animals pass through are full of water, plants, and rocks, rendered with enough detail to make the animals' passage clear, but always secondary to the primary protagonists. In short, the illustrations are masterful.
Jerry Pinkney's The Tortoise & and Hare is a fresh, entertaining take on a classic fable. Librarians and picture book gift-givers will not want to pass it up. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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