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  • The Tortoise & the Hare by Jerry Pinkney
  • Deborah Stevenson
Pinkney, Jerry, ad. The Tortoise & the Hare; ad. and illus. by Jerry Pinkney. Little, 2013. 34p. ISBN 978-0-316-18356-7 $18.00 R* 4-7 yrs.

Continuing his swath through legend after his Caldecott-winning The Lion and the Mouse (BCCB 2/09), Pinkney here tackles Aesop’s famous fable of the tortoise and the hare, setting the story in a vivid Southwestern landscape of cactus, streaming sun, and wide-open country. Aside from Coyote’s spoken “On your marks …” call, the only text is the famous moral, “Slow and steady wins the race,” which winds in part and full through the tortoise’s scenes to describe, promise, and summarize. Pinkney’s note explains he first heard this tale as an Uncle Remus tale, and indeed, his richly characterized animals here recall his illustrations for Julius Lester’s Uncle Remus retellings (The Last Tales of Uncle Remus, BCCB 2/94, etc.). Sassy touches of clothing personify the competitors and their teeming audience (Tortoise sports a denim cap and a jaunty neckerchief, while Hare is a fan of checks, even loaning his checkered scarf to Coyote for a finish flag), yet the anthropomorphism blends seamlessly with the naturalistic detail as Hare springs with power and grace over fallen objects and Tortoise clambers determinedly over rocky ground. Fine detailing has the dimension of Steve Jenkins’ cut-paper work, with the gleaming geometry of Tortoise’s shell as inviting as Hare’s creamy golden fur, but the scope of the illustrations makes the book a compelling distance show as well. This adaptation ends on a nice comradely note, with Hare bestowing his checkered scarf on a pleased Tortoise; don’t miss the closing endpaper, where the victory party is in full swing. While this is an oft-retold tale in picture-book land, Pinkney’s version is faithful to the original while offering a lively and imaginative take on the ancient Greek version of “You snooze, you lose.”



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