Sunday, August 15, 2010
The Grasshopper's Song, written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Candlewick, Random House. 2008. $18.50 ages 4 and up
"Jimmy Grasshopper feels he is not respected by the Ants for the work he has done. He wants us to sue. What do you think?"
The first one to speak was Lori Wren. "Jimmy is right. Almost every year, one of the Grasshoppers comes to make music. I have my office windows open and hear the most wonderful sounds. He should be paid."
Henry Jr. spoke next. "It will be a tricky case, because the Ants didn't actually contract with the Grasshoppers for a service."
Does this quote sound like this might be 'an Aesop's fable revisited'?
Indeed, it is.
While some of the events are part of the original, there is much that is new and intriguing for young readers. It seems that the same thing happens year after year. While the Ants work, the Grasshoppers provide the songs that keep them working efficiently. Then, with the arrival of winter, the Ants are quick to snub the Grasshoppers who have provided so much incentive to their work. This time when Grasshopper is left out of his share, he decides to sue and hires the law firm of Robin, Robin, Robin and Wren to represent him. The trial is presided over by Judge Owl and a chosen jury of creatures of the forest. There is a host of issues to be considered and the author makes us witness to each of them. The lawyer for the Ants acknowledges that they enjoyed the music...of course, they did. But they didn't ask him to perform and he didn't have a contract. The Grasshopper wonders if everything must be contracted in life.
I have read that this book would make a powerful Readers' Theatre, once read and thoroughly discussed. I like that idea. It takes the original moral of the benefits of hard work, and begs the question be asked about the value of music in life:
"You will, throughout this trial, hear expert testimony about the benefits of music. It has been proven that those who sing, those who make music, play a key role in the survival of all life - mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and insects."
The Ants have an argument:
"Now he finds himself with nothing. Is this the responsibility of Nestor and Abigail Ant? Mr. Grasshopper chose not to prepare for the future. Well, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are asking you to send a message. Those who fritter summer away will have to pay winter's price."
I will not be the spoiler but it is a trial worth attending and an ending worth celebrating.
Chris Raschka's charming, earth tone watercolors bring us right into the middle and muddle of the story. The animals are expressive, and natty in their 'going to court' attire. There is much here to see and enjoy.