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Balance Restored Through Generosity, Effort, and Barter!
on April 24, 2001
This book won the Caldecott Medal as the best illustrated children's story of 1971. The vivid colors will brighten your day! The story itself is a retelling of an Armenian folk tale.
The book is exceptional for the fable, the moral it tells, and the dynamic illustrations that turn the fox's frustration into an adventure for the reader.
"One fine day
a fox traveled through a great forest.
When he reached the other side he was very thirsty."
"He saw a pail of milk that an old woman had set down
while she gathered wood for her fire."
"Before she noticed the fox, he had lapped up most of the milk."
"The woman became so angry that she grabbed her knife and
chopped off his tail . . . ."
Thus, the story begins.
The fox begs for the old woman to sew his tail back on. Otherwise, "all my friends will laugh at me."
"'Give me back my milk,' she said, 'and I'll give you back your tail.'"
The fox finds a cow who is willing to help, but wants grass in return. The fox asks a field for some grass, and the field asks for some water. The fox goes to the stream, which tells him to get a jug for the water. From there, the fox finds a fair maiden who has a jug, but wants a blue bead. The fox finds a peddler who has a blue bead, but wants an egg. An hen offers an egg in exchange for some grain. The fox finds a miller who has grain.
"The miller was a good man and felt sorry for the fox."
With the grain given to him by the miller, the fox proceeds to do all of his barters.
In the end, the old woman "carefully sewed his tail in place, and off he ran to join his friends . . . ."
As you can see, the language is simple so you will find this book helpful in assisting your child to learn to read around ages 4-6. The illustrations carefully match the words, which will help remind your child which words are on the page.
The book is valuable for introducing a number of important themes. For example, if you do something wrong, people will be angry. They may even punish you in some way.
Further, most people want something in exchange even if they are willing to help.
Beyond that, even those who want to help may not be able to (the stream could not transport the water it would give freely).
Most importantly, without the kindness of a stranger (the miller) the fox would have been out of luck . . . even with all of his efforts.
After you finish the story, I suggest that you also ask your child what lessons are here. Children are famous for spotting unintended ones as well as fundamental truths that adults easily overlook. Have a great discussion!
Seek balance in all that you do, especially when you redress an imbalance . . . whether caused by you or others! Don't forget to play the role of the miller!