The Lion and the Mouse
by Jerry Pinkney
What are the golden eyes of the great lion staring at? The mouse, naturally. But you must follow the lion’s gaze around the spine to the back of the book to find her.
You and your family have never seen a version of Aesop’s fable, “The Lion and the Mouse,” quite like this one. It opens with endpapers that transport you to the East African Serengeti—a land dominated by the grandeur of the acacia trees, elephants and ostriches, wildebeest and zebras, a lion and a mouse. This is a wordless book; the pictures tell the story. On the title page, the mouse fits easily inside the lion’s paw print. The only words are the animals’ sounds. The “Who who whoooo” and warning “screeeech” of an owl sends the mouse scampering into a hollow log, and onto the tail of the title lion. After a “GRRR” and a close inspection of the intruder, the great maned beast lets the mouse go. Jerry Pinkney shows the mouse returning to her home, where her babies await. In the background, eagle-eye youngsters can still find the lion (in the upper right corner) and, on the next page, the approaching hunters (in the upper left corner)—the same hunters who will set the rope-mesh netting that traps the lion. Once captured, the lion unleashes a “RRROAARRRRR” that stretches across a double-page spread. A series of panel illustrations chart the mouse’s journey to the lion. Next, a trio of scenes shows the mouse removing a strategic knot from the netting, a tiny tuft of the lion’s golden mane is detectable in each scene. The freed lion looks deep into the eyes of the tiny mouse, as if to acknowledge the second chance at life that each has given the other. Compassion in one has inspired courage in the other. United with his mate and cubs, the lion carries on his back the mouse and her little ones as they stride across the Serengeti plains in the closing endpapers. This is bookmaking at its best.