Anyone who knows “The Tortoise and the Hare” probably remembers the moral: Slow and steady wins the race. This version of the story has a second moral: Go to Israel.
In this picture book, the title characters are friends who live in Tel Aviv, and they’re racing each other to the Dead Sea. Hare keeps getting distracted by the local sights. He stops by the shuk to buy dried apricots. He sits down in an oasis to enjoy tea and baklava. Readers will sympathize. Every page is full of so many wonderful distractions that the book feels like an ad for the Israeli tourist industry. If readers look closely at the artwork, they’ll see a bear on top of a unicycle, juggling as it rides, and a cat floating in the water, reading the paper. Instead of teaching the value of slow and steady progress, this version of the fable says: Stop and look around; there are olive groves and persimmon trees. The book is full of mixed messages, but if the moral is confused, readers won’t mind. There are animals everywhere: whales and ravens and swimming camels. They’re made up of bold, geometric shapes in gorgeous pastel colors.
If the story teaches any lesson at all, it’s this: A short attention span can be a glorious thing, particularly in a place like this. (Picture book. 4-7)