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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Grasshopper and the Ants, written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2015. $20.00 ages 3 and up

""Why toil so steady?"
asked Grasshopper.
"It's fall and the world
is a playground of leaves.
Oh, how their colors
twirl and glide!
Come dance and sing!"
"Look at the wonderful
mountain of leaves. Come play!"

As a child, I am not sure that I appreciated fables read to me. I probably was aware that they were meant to teach me a lesson ... and that is true! Often, children are not as keen to pay attention to a 'moral' as they are to be entertained by a well-told story. That being said, fables do have an important place in the field of literature for children.

In the past few years, Jerry Pinkney may have changed the perception for shrewd sharers of his truly wonderful stories. As he did in The Lion and the Mouse (2010) and The Tortoise and the Hare (2013), he has created a most beautiful depiction of the age-old story about getting your work done before you take the time to play. The endpapers have enough visual detail to keep 'readers' focused and chatting for long minutes. There are many comparisons to make. The ants are as busy as they can be, and we are wise to all of their movements. Our eyes are in constant motion as we meet Grasshopper and the worker ants he is addressing.

"Why work so hard?"
sang Grasshopper.
"It's spring and time to go fishing."

"No time to relax,"
said the Ants."

No time, indeed. From an ant's eye view, we watch every movement and each small task meant to make life easier for the colony as winter approaches. Each season for the ants is spent in intense preparation, while Grasshopper makes music and ponders the need for so much hard work. The joys of the seasons inspire him to play and sing, and pay no mind to the fact that winter is just around the corner.

Once the Ants have retreated to the warmth of their winter nest, Grasshopper becomes increasingly lonely and cold. When he begs for shelter, the Ants turn him away. In an elegantly designed gatefold, it is obvious to readers that life in the colony is homey and cheerful. Their comfort is foreign to the Grasshopper who sits on his drum with his banjo providing a small bit of protection from the wintry cold. It is the Queen who offers a dramatic rescue. Tea warms Grasshopper's heart, and his body.

The final double page spread is sure to evince many happy 'ahhhs' from everyone concerned.

This is visual storytelling in the best sense of the word - not surprising when Jerry Pinkney is at work! His Artist's Note is personal and informative for his audience. It is a call to get outside and take note of the beauty to be found there.

Brilliant in design, inspiring in his execution of the insects that are at the heart of the telling, and full of expression and life, it is definitely destined for my "10" shelf!


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