From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2–"One day in March, after a morning of carefree cavorting and capering with her friends on the hillside, Hare was haring her way home along a path when she came across Tortoise." Morpurgo is jocular and colloquial as he adds descriptive details and conversation in retelling 21 tales of the venerable Aesop. Accompanied by humorous watercolor scenes in varied sizes, some tales extend for several pages, while others are complete on two. The concluding lessons, set in larger type, tend to lack the pithiness of those in many older collections, though some are more economical than others. "Obstinacy may look like strength. It rarely is." The reteller seems undecided as to how deadly the fate of some characters should be–or at least how specifically it should be stated. In "The Rat and the Elephant," not usually found in Aesop, he says of the cat's pursuit of the rat, "Well, I won't tell you what happened. You'll just have to imagine it." However, he adds a bit of ill fate for the boy who cried "wolf." Unlike most versions, the boy, along with his sheep, is eaten. Morpurgo includes no notes on his sources or choices of tales and alterations. These cheerful, well-crafted offerings will work well for independent reading and reading aloud.– Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
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PreS-Gr. 2. Every library has an edition of these stories, which have been retold for children many times. But this large, spacious hardcover is perfectly designed for reading aloud. The text appears in big, clear type on thick paper, and Clark's gorgeous watercolors show the characters--from the scary, threatening black bear to small creatures that sometimes come out on top. Morpurgo's adaptations of 21 short tales stay true to the tradition of humanlike animal characters and lessons that eschew heavy philosophizing in favor of warnings about ordinary folk and their foolishness. From "The Tortoise and the Hare" to "The Dog in the Manger," the chatty style is never cute ("I'll beat you easy-peasy"), and the morals ("Be happy with what you've got, and look after it") apply as much to the schoolyard as the jungle. Morpurgo's own introductory fable is filled with playful animal action and has a surprising reversal. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved