12 August 2010

The Meek vs. the Mighty

I wrote about a wordless book in an earlier post and mentioned that they can be hard for some parents to share with their children. For those who want to try one, let me suggest starting with Jerry Pinkney's adaptation of Aesop's fable The Lion and the Mouse.

Pinkney won the Caldecott Medal for his illustrations in this book this past year. He retells the fable without words, using his beautiful drawings to show the precarious relationship between the two opposite animals. The story is a simple one and has traditionally been told with very sparse text, according to Pinkney in his author's note, which is why he decided to try telling it through pictures rather than words.

Matt shared this book with Isaac at bedtime a few nights ago. They talked about what was happening in each picture and slowly wove their own story as they went page to page through the book. When they had finished there was silence for a moment and then I heard Matt say, "That was a really great book," to which Isaac responded, "Yeah." They then proceeded to go back to some of Isaac's favorite pictures a second time.

Pinkney is easily one of the best children's book illustrators ever. And The Lion and the Mouse is a beautiful book and deserved the Caldecott Medal, hands down. But what I think is really wonderful about this book is Pinkney's decision to leave out the words and let the reader tell the story. Each child who experiences this book will personalize the fable and internalize the story. The lesson children take away will be one that they create and that will change as they re-experience the story at different points in their lives.

Great books do not have to have words. Great books are ones with which you connect on a personal level. Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse is a great book.

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