Harper: The Snakes by Sadie Jones

Lion and Mouse

Jairo Buitrago's (Walk with Me) retelling of the classic fable "The Lion and the Mouse" is likely to have early readers giggling with glee. Buitrago injects a playful air into this story about an improbable friendship between a mouse and the lion who resists eating him, describing the mouse as "a busybody" who the lion thinks is "too small and ugly" to have a girlfriend. The mouse, venturing "uninvited" into the lion's house to steal some food, is "well mannered" and makes sure to wipe "his feet on the lion's mane." The lion--amazingly--does not eat the mouse, and the scene is set for a humorous romp through the forest. Buitrago's jovial, joking text entertains young readers while also making subtle, witty jabs at modern society that may amuse older readers (the lion doesn't recognize the mouse "because all mice looked alike to him").

Adding to Buitrago's wonderful waggishness is Rafael Yockteng's delightful mixed-media illustrations. The colors, textures and shading enhance the natural feeling of the setting--flowing water, gnarly trees--while matching the stylized depictions of the animals. Plus, the rich images of their friendship in the latter half of the book are whimsical and uplifting. What youngster can resist a mouse dressed up as a lion to scare away a bug?

The entertaining text and superb illustrations combine to spark new life in this old tale of kindness, compassion and friendship. No matter the age, we can all stand to be reminded of what the lion learned, "You know, seeing you so close up, friend mouse, you aren't... at all ugly." --Jen Forbus, freelancer