It’s been my experience that second and third graders most appreciate listening to and reading fables. They can laugh at the foibles of some characters, admire the cleverness of others, and the stories’ morals appeal to their sense of what is true, and right. For educators and parents there are so many versions to choose–from Michael Morpurgo’s The McElderry Book of Aesop’s Fables (2005), illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, to Christopher Wormell’s Mice, Morals, & Monkey Business (Running Press, 2005) featuring a morals-only main text and gorgeous linocut artwork. And not to be missed are Arnold Lobel’s modern-day Fables (HarperColllins, 1983), and the many single-story versions including B. G. Hennessey’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf (S & S, 2006) illustrated by Boris Kulikov, and Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion & the Mouse (Little, Brown, 2009). While versions of fables can be found in most media, if what our reviewer notes is true–that we’re not as familiar with fables as earlier generations were–it’s time to pull these titles off the shelf, and perhaps, download an Aesop app or two onto our iPads. The app reviewed today is free, and can also be viewed online.
The Boy Who Forgot to Charge His Phone? The Girl Who Lost Her House Key? We’re not a generation that draws our lessons from animals or the natural world, so The Aesop for Children (Library of Congress, Free; Gr 1-5) provides a window for today’s children into a past where the way a crow manages to get a drink from a bottle and the consequences of goats facing off on a narrow bridge prove instructive for real life.
The app includes about 140 fables, illustrated by the finely detailed original artwork of Milo Winter (Rand, McNally & Co., 1919). Some of the illustrations include a small animation (a swish of a tail, a blink of an eye, a leaf that falls from a tree, etc.) that adds delight to the story. In “Belling the Cat,” the feline peeks out from behind a wall, then disappears. Other images direct readers to touch an object to trigger an animation, and a few include a charming short animated video. Not all animations connect well to the story. Occasional, appropriate sound effects are heard and enhance the storytelling.
Navigation is simple from the table of contents, though once you are in the app there is no choice but to read the tales in sequence. Elementary children may enjoy having a few fables read aloud to them at a time, but are likely to need some help with vocabulary and understanding the relationship between the story and the moral. Older students learning about ancient cultures may appreciate the lesser-known fables. More elements of an eBook than an app, but you can’t beat the price.–Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School Library Teacher, Seattle School District