Four of Aesop’s familiar fables feature wily fox shamelessly tricking his fellow creatures, followed by their gleeful retaliation, strung together in one continuous if episodic narrative.
First, hungry fox fails to retrieve a luscious bunch of grapes from a tree. To save his dignity, fox announces the grapes “are quite sour,” proving it’s “easy to scorn what you cannot get.” Then, fox encounters crow with cheese in her beak. When fox cleverly asks if crows really do have amazing voices, crow opens her mouth to caw, dropping the cheese. As he gobbles crow’s cheese, fox moralizes, “never trust a flatterer.” In his smugness at this victory, fox stumbles into a well—and then tricks hapless goat into helping him escape. Leaving goat in the well, fox warns to “look before you leap.” And finally, “one bad turn deserves another,” when goat, crow and stork give fox his just deserts. Lowry cleverly incorporates the four fables into a single story sequence with each fable adding to the theme of fox’s self-centered dishonesty. Pale gouache-and-pencil illustrations in muted greens, browns and greys provide a subdued, understated backdrop to fox’s self-serving antics while emphasizing the very human behavior of each animal character.
Four fable favorites cleverly repackaged. (author’s note, morals) (Picture book. 4-8)