A lackluster take on the well-worn Aesop’s fable that does not stand up as well as other picture-book interpretations, notably Jerry Pinkney’s masterful wordless version.
In an uncharacteristic display of empathy, rather than playing along with the mouse’s attempt at negotiation, the lion refrains from eating the hungry mouse and helps him to get the juicy berries he desires. The mouse’s promise to return the favor materializes when hunters come in the night and trap the unsuspecting lion in a net. Naturally, the mouse frees the lion by gnawing away the strings of the net. No surprises here: Lion and mouse become BFFs. Nój’s textured cut-paper collage with some subtle die cuts enliven the rather ho-hum text and are cleanly executed. However, the highly stylized nature of the collage makes the lion’s shape more than a little odd in some of the illustrations. The style is so tight and formal that some of the shapes are hard to read, particularly when presented in silhouette. However there are creative touches, such as the die-cut footprints that represent the hunters, making drawing them unnecessary. Paper collage need not be as unforgiving as it is here; some of the figures have the look of Lego blocks and may be hard for young children to interpret.
Almost too squeaky-clean to be much fun. (Picture book. 2-4)