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