Award-Winning Books Picture Book Challenge 2011 Picture Books PoC Reading Challenge 2011 Reading Themes When Words are Not Enough

Even the Mighty needs saving too, Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion & The Mouse

Our Wordless Picture Book Special for March and April 2011

For our first book on our Bimonthly theme, When Words are Not Enough, I thought that it would be great to begin with the 2010 Caldecott Medal Winner The Lion & The Mouse, an Aesop fable adaptation by no less than Jerry Pinkney himself.

In this wordless adaptation, we see that even the book cover does not contain any title: just this lovely painting of the lion in front and an illustration of the mouse at the back.

As we turn the pages, we see that the words seen throughout the book would be the sounds of the owl hooting (as could be seen below), a screech, small tiny squeaks, and giant GRRRs.

the Whoooooo of the distant owl

Caught between an Owl and the King of all Predators. Despite the wordless nature of the book, I assure you that it would take you hours just staring at each of the detailed illustrations, marveling at Pinkney’s genius. In this illustration, we see this pink-tailed mouse successfully navigating away from the screech and the sharp talons of the hungry bird …

Scary owl indeed

… only to land unknowingly onto a fierce lion’s back:

The hapless mouse ... hanging on for dear life (not knowing he was hanging on to an even more frightening predator)

A small act of kindness radiates across space and time. It’s amazing to just look deeply into the lion’s every change of expression, coming up with adjectives to describe how the lion must have felt as he sees this tiny mouse crawl on his body: was it indignation? genuine surprise? wonderment at the audacity of this tiny creature to even run through his rippled back?

The absence of words is powerful in allowing your child (or your student) to come up with various interpretations as to how the lion must have felt at this point in time – enriching their affective expressions and building their emotion-vocabulary. Quite a number of possible activities can be developed from this picture book alone inside the classroom or within your child’s bedroom before lights out.

The lion trapped by the hunters' net

True to Aesop’s tradition, we see that this act of kindness by the lion in releasing this helpless mouse ultimately saved his own hide. Through Jerry Pinkney’s evocative illustrations (that need no words), we see the disparity between the lion’s huge size and the mouse’s tiny frame. How could this little mouse be of any threat (or assistance) to the King of the Jungle? But as we shall see below, even little creatures can patiently gnaw at prison-ropes and be of invaluable assistance to the fiercest of all the jungle predators – bringing home the realization that nothing (or no one) is inconsequential – and so we learn the truths behind trite adages: ‘What goes around, comes around.’

"Eh?" Create a thought bubble, children. What is going through the lion's mane, err head?

Artist’s Note. The wordless narrative is even made more remarkable by the Artist/Illustrator Note found at the very end of the book. Pinkney shared that this is one of his childhood favorites with its capacity to offer “more than a simple moral of how the meek can trump the mighty.” While others may simply zero in on that ‘moral lesson’ – there are so many other insights that could be gleaned from this seemingly-simple tale:

… as an adult I’ve come to appreciate how both animals are equally large at heart: the courageous mouse, and the lion who must rise above his beastly nature to set his small prey free. It was gratifying, then, to place these two spirited creatures head-to-head on this book’s jacket, each commanding powerful space and presence.

Pinkney went on to share that the stage of this fable was set in the African Serengeti of Tanzani and Kenya “with its wide horizon and abundant wildlife so awesome yet fragile – not unlike the two sides of each of the heroes starring in this great tale for all times.”

Real lions in the African Serengeti, click on the image to be taken to the websource


Not only does this set the stage for our Wordless Picture Book Bimonthly theme, it also reveals just how excited I am to be watching The Lion King tomorrow at the Marina Sands Theater for their Southeast Asian Premiere. Yay to musicals.

Teacher Resources. In this Teacher Thinktank website, educators would be able to download a worksheet on making inferences that is designed specifically for this book. There is also a mini-book template on the mouse that can likewise be used by educators. Hachettebookgroup has also created this fabulous downloadable pdf link that provides discussion questions and possible activities to be shared inside the classroom.

While researching resources for this book, I also found this youtube clip of Jerry Pinkney himself discussing his inspiration in illustrating his very own adaptation of Aesop’s fable, his first wordless picturebook. Enjoy!

PictureBook Reading Challenge Update: 25 of 72

PoC Reading Update: 19 of 25

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

12 comments on “Even the Mighty needs saving too, Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion & The Mouse

  1. This story brings back memories. I used to have a book of compiled fairy tales and fables and I have a select few that I repeat over and over, and this story is one of them. How Jerry Pinkney created the pictures is amazing. In my head I see the owl swooping down, the mouse scuttling for cover, the lion actually thrashing inside the net. I see all these animals in motion. It translates like a mini movie in my head. 🙂


    • myragarcesbacsal

      Hi Tin, so so true. Each page conveys so many emotions, the actual words would simply be superfluous. =) Perfect wordless picturebook indeed.


  2. The story sounds great and the pictures are breathtakingly beautiful! I have a little girl with read hair who would love to read this book and put her own spin on it.

    dancealert at aol dot com


    • myragarcesbacsal

      Hello Brenda. Yes, the lion’s mane is indeed breathtaking, and you’re right, it does resemble a red-haired girl. I hope you find it in your libraries. =)


  3. Wow, I need t his now. Great review and thanks for sharing.


    • myragarcesbacsal

      Hi Pam, thank you for visiting. I’m glad that you liked it. Truly a great book. =) By one of the masters himself combined with Aesop’s vision. How can one go wrong?


  4. We have this in our library basket, but have not opened it yet! I look forward to sharing with my son.


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