With luminous mixed media pictures, a short, carefully meted-out text and a Southwestern U.S. setting, Pinkney (The Lion and the Mouse, 2009) takes on another of Aesop’s fables—marvelously.
A persevering tortoise and a speedy but arrogant hare tackle a challenging race course that includes rocky elevations and a water crossing. When a farmstead’s cabbages tempt the hare, he tunnels under a fence to gorge and nap. Meanwhile the tortoise, closely observed by desert denizens, passes the slumbering hare and wins by a length. In the tortoise’s scenes, the fable’s moral inches along, like him: The first proclaims “SLOW”; the second, “SLOW AND”—and so on, with the victory spread featuring the entire moral. The ingenious layout mixes bordered panels, spot illustrations and full-bleed single- and double-page spreads, arranged to convey each racer’s alternating progress through a golden landscape. Bejeweled with blooming cactuses and buzzing with bees, reptiles, mammals and more, the desert tableaux will engross readers. The critters’ bits of clothing—hat, bandanna, vest—add pops of color and visually evoke the jaunty characters of Br’er Rabbit stories. Hare’s black-and-white checked neckerchief does duty as the signal flag and Tortoise’s victory cape. Lush, encompassing endpapers feature, in the front, a layout of the racecourse and, in the rear, the reveling animals, with the hare, still stunned, gazing out at readers.
A captivating winner—start to finish! (artist’s note, design notes) (Picture book/folk tale. 3-6)