Lion and Mouse

tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Rafael Yockteng. 32p. Groundwood. May 2019. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781773062242.
RedReviewStarPreS-Gr 2—What can another version of this classic fable possibly add to the canon? When it is created by Buitrago and Yockteng, the answer is quite a bit. From the first characterizations, readers understand that this is not their grandmother's Aesop. The lion is described as "lovely…like a sun," while the mouse is "a busybody and a glutton." The vocabulary is colorful, the styling smart, reminiscent of William Steig. When the mouse overreaches in their first encounter, the lion dismisses him. The omniscient narrator explains: "'nsignificant' means being of no use or importance and is the most insulting thing you could say about a mouse." Yockteng's soft compositions are rendered in pencil and colored digitally with a subdued woodland palette of greens, browns, grays, copper, and gold. Humor and drama unfold with restraint: a single claw pressed on the tip of the tail had trapped the intruder. After the lion is ensnared by a hunter's net and freed by the mouse, the plot diverges from the original. Rain compels the lion to shelter the rodent with his paw. Fearing a never-ending cycle of favors, the mouse expresses concern, but the beast's motivation is genuine, and "that is how they began to be good to each other." Never heavy-handed, the levity expands with the friendship, as when the lion's hairy tail is draped over the mouse, creating a hilarious miniature doppelgänger, roaring at an insect.
VERDICT An intelligent glimpse at how a friendship between unlikely candidates might be possible. A stellar addition for all collections.

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