“MR. AESOP’S STORY SHOP,” by Bob Hartman and Jago Silver, Lion Children’s, June 1, 2011, Hardcover, $14.99 (ages 6 and up)
Under an awning in a tucked-away corner of the Greek marketplace, a little bald man with bandy legs and a crooked smile lays out olives and cheese and offers it to the people on their way home. With his refreshments, he offers fables, stories with a moral. With a few jokes, the people settle in and he begins to tell the story of a mouse and a lion…
The next day Aesop, the storyteller, begins another story — this time of a crow and a jar. The following day comes the tale of a fox and grapes. A city mouse and country mouse take center stage the following day and an ant and a dung beetle the next. Aesop’s stories continue and so do the lessons contained in them. Finally ending with a story about a wolf and a dog and earning freedom.
Author Bob Hartman takes a new approach to Aesop’s fables. In his research on Aesop’s life, Hartman learned that Aesop may have once been a slave who was later set free. Hartman decided to use that as a setup for each of the fables, having Aesop himself tell the tales. It’s an interesting idea and works fairly well. And the accompanying illustrations — particularly those of animals — are beautiful. Artist Jago Silver has created a rustic, layered look that is in keeping with Hartman’s writing and Aesop’s fables.
“Mr. Aesop’s Story Shop” has a lot more text than a traditional picture book and is therefore suited to stronger beginners and young readers with longer attention spans.
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