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Stories from the Panchatantra

retold by Jamila Gavin & illustrated by Bee Willey

Pub Date: June 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-84507-990-1
Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Employing a series of newly created stories in combination with five traditional tales to reveal the Panchatantra’s themes, the author hopes to entice children to read these ancient Indian fables.

Three arrogant princes change their tune in six short months as a sage uses stories to teach them the art of ruling. These fables have been introduced to people of all classes for generations to spread ideas of wisdom, kindness, friendship and unity, and self-control, while still awakening listeners to the possibility of treachery from old enemies. Didactic in nature, the stories still hold up, but contemporary listeners and readers may be put off by the pompous language of “The Preamble: the Princes Who Wouldn’t Learn” and the first frame story, “The Fighter Kite.” They will be caught up in the stories as the doves are “Caught in the Fowler’s Net,” the first fable retold. Gavin gives an introduction to the Panchatantra, but it's too bad she did not provide sources so interested readers could search out tales not included here. The illustrations take two forms: ethereal mixed-media pictures that combine pencil, oil pastels, acrylic and Photoshop in the frame stories and looser, simpler, bolder images of the animals in the fables.

A less-is-more philosophy might have been employed to better advantage with only one style of illustration and less emphasis on the stories about the princes, but the fables remain eminently discussable.  

(Folklore. 8-11)