The North Wind and the Sun

­Holiday House/Neal Porter. Oct. 2023. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823455836.
PreS-Gr 3–Do we really need another version of Aesop’s fable? The answer is a solid, sobbing yes. In spare sketches of colored pencil that thrillingly follow the events limned in a vigorous retelling, Stead turns the battle of the North Wind and the Sun into a nearly nuclear meltdown across the globe, while three tiny sisters, gray-haired and elderly white women, huddle against the blows in patched and mended coats.“The sisters had felt cruelty like this before. Over the years, they had learned the ways to unravel it, to weave it into something beautiful and new.” These words are not found in Aesop, that the North Wind blows so hard that “his fury made ripples in the teacups of old women, who felt the sorrow of friendships lost to the past, and his hatred whipped dust into the eyes of old men, who felt the regret of arguments never resolved.” No, the soft, on-the-nose fable gathering dust on the shelf is, in Stead’s hands, now epic, closer to David and Goliath, but the Sun is not interested in winning. The Sun is like the wise woman in the corner who just wants everyone to calm down and get along, and she includes the North Wind. “A quiet breeze whispered through the tall grass.” The world warms and peace is restored.
VERDICT When a virtuoso abandons all the rules and creates something more, everyone sits up with attention, and children will too. Aesop on steroids in blasts of colored pencil? Now that’s a classic.

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