Reviews for Aesop's Fables

Kirkus Reviews 2011 October #1
Wearing a deliberate African patina, this refreshing collection of 16 Aesop fables takes place in the South African veld, giving these timeless moral tales a visual and verbal facelift. In opening remarks, Naidoo theorizes Aesop originated from Africa, accounting for a prevalence of African animals in his fables and a penchant for the moral lessons characteristic of African folktales. Cultivating this African flavor, Naidoo sprinkles her text with native words and phrases such as "mealie" (corn) and "mampara" (fool), providing footnote translations when appropriate. In typical Aesop fashion, animals serve as lead characters, but Naidoo adds to the African texture by populating the tales with distinctive African animals like zebras, jackals, braks (mongrel dogs), rinkhals (spitting cobra), snake eagles, klipspringer (small antelope) and kudu (large grey antelope). Despite the African twist, the single-action narrative of each fable preserves the impersonal moral tone of the originals, emphasizing discretion ("The Old Lion"), prudence ("The Lion and the Warthog"), moderation ("The Eagle and the Tortoise") and forethought ("The Grasshopper and the Ants"). Primitive, whimsical watercolor-and-pencil illustrations preserve the African theme. Decorative borders set off each fable, while full-page illustrations capture the drama, foolishness or humor with special focus on the droll antics and expressions of the animal characters. A delightful new rendition of some old favorites. (Fables. 5-11) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 October #1

In her introduction, Naidoo (who collaborated with Grobler on The Great Tug of War) points out that Aesop's fables are closer to African folktales than to European fairy stories. She believes that literature's best-known slave was captured from Africa, and she retells 16 of his stories with a South African twist. "Sjoe!" her characters exclaim when they're impressed; "Eishh!" they groan when they're dismayed (Afrikaans and Swahili terms are glossed at the foot of the pages). Populated with lions, jackals, klipspringers, and other African animals, the fables seem more bloodthirsty than Aesop's originals ("Seconds later, he felt Lion's teeth and claws rip into him"), but Grobler's sly ink-and-watercolor artwork keeps Naidoo's gorier instincts in check. In the most provocative fable, a man is threatened with certain death by the rinkhals (a kind of cobra) and saved by the snake-eagle. He never understands how close to catastrophe he's come--only the reader does--which makes for a disturbing reminder of how little people sometimes know about their own lives. It's a worthy experiment, and a well-executed twist on these beloved stories. Ages 5-11. (Nov.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 November

Gr 1-4--"Nowadays I think that Aesop was African." Naidoo's introduction to these 16 retellings ponders the unresolved question of Aesop's actual origins and speculates rather convincingly for the possibility of Africa. Accordingly, she replaces the fox with a jackal in relevant stories and introduces a few other less-familiar creatures among the standard characters. The lion and the mouse and the ants and the grasshopper have their accustomed place, but the jackal and the klipspringer (a small antelope) now end up in the deep ditch-here called a kloof. Each story has just a few words from varied African languages, adding a bit of regional flavor. These are all translated at story's end following the often-familiar moral. Grobler, like Naidoo, grew up in South Africa, and his comical pencil-and-watercolor portrayals of the animals and the folk-style borders on many pages suggest the African terrain while conveying the universally enjoyed craftiness and folly of the characters. They are often a teeth-baring, scrawny lot. Some of the tales are just a single page facing a full-page scene, while others have up to three pages of well-crafted narrative, often incorporating considerable dialogue. Naidoo and Grobler are a good pair of storytellers. His homely animals, energy, and humorous details convey the stories with great fun and will be widely enjoyed for independent reading, reading aloud, and telling.--Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

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