“My name is Aesop! Once I was a slave. Now I am a free man. I have refreshments to sell and stories to tell.”
This fresh approach to the classic collection makes a character of Aesop himself, talking to a fictional audience and directing questions to them, and is an effective context for the fables. In "The Crow and the Jar," the crow can’t get his head far enough into the jar to reach the water, so he drops in pebble after pebble until it rises high enough for him to drink. Aesop has the children who are gathered around his storytelling stall in the marketplace collect pebbles and drop them in a jar to demonstrate. Moral: “Brains are sometimes better than brute strength.” An introduction explains what little is known about Aesop, an ugly man with a bald head and bandy legs who was a slave, and defines the form. The textured illustrations appear as if painted on handmade paper, varying in size and placement from a full page to a double-spread banner. Not every page has artwork, leaving all-text pages off-puttingly dense. Greek motifs are used throughout, and the morals appear as letters chiseled in stone at the end of each tale. Fable collections are plentiful (Jerry Pinkney’s Aesop's Fables, 2000, and The McElderry Book of Aesop's Fables, by Michael Morpurgo, 2005, for instance), but the storytelling device here works well as an engaging read-aloud.
“Sticking to your goals may bring more success than being lazy with your talents.” (Fables. 5-9)