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An Anthology of Aesop’s Fables

adapted by Helen Ward & illustrated by Helen Ward

Age Range: 7 - 12

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-8118-4450-1
Publisher: Chronicle

The title of this overblown exercise is just wrong: whoever Aesop was, that teller was deeply aware of the wisdom in the fables. Ward allows readers to feel superior while hammering home in a most unsubtle way each moral of these tales. For example, in “Steady and Slow,” she retells the tortoise and the hare with an emphasis on the irritating qualities of the hare (“the master of faster”) and lingers over his ultimate humiliation: “There was still a good chance that someday he would end up testing . . . the sharpness of a crocodile’s teeth.” She does have a precise and elegant hand with watercolor and ink, often placing her images on white backgrounds to manipulate negative space on oversized pages. Twelve tales, including the fox and the grapes, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the lion and the mouse, preach loudly and clearly at young people. One might hope they might be too distracted by the visuals and spidery lacewing fonts to notice. Turning the perfectly simple into the ostentatious, Ward has forgotten that “fine feathers do not make fine birds.” (Picture book/folktales. 7-12)