Aesop's Fables

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Caselli, Giovanni
Morley, Jacqueline
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I like this book. I suspect that a lack of publication rights for it in this country has kept me from being aware of it, so I was lucky to find it from Elmfield Books in England. The introduction is a careful and accurate presentation of the history of fables, including the offhand surmise that Herodotus recorded little about the details of Aesop's life because he assumed that his readers knew all about such a famous man as Aesop (9). Two other structural features of the book are immediately attractive. The first is A Guide to Aesop's Beasts (93), which is a good shorthand presentation of each fable starting with one main character (e.g., Gnat, self-important 47). The second is a two page Index of Themes (94), which I plan to use. The illustrations are spirited, and the texts are very careful. Do not miss the illustration of the mosquito planted solidly on the exposed flesh of the lion's nose (15). The art here not only spills beyond the usual borders; it often runs to the very bottom, top, or side of the page. SW is particularly well told (18); the North Wind opens the conversation with Watch me tear off his cloak. The sun replies I think I could take it off him quicker than you. The moral to The Hare Has an Idea (23) is The rich will not share willingly with the poor, and who can make them? Caselli's donkey in the lion's skin is one of the best I have seen (27), but his cat-become-a-bride (32) may be less successful. The Farmer and the Snake (33) has a great but sad moral: There are some injuries it is impossible to forgive. LS has just the lion and ass as partners and three portions (44). SS is well told: that the third load comprises sponges is revealed only after the third slip into the water (48). The mice generals wear walnut helmets against the weasels, as the illustration shows well (50). The Donkey Who Wanted to be Loved has a great illustration of the donkey embracing his master (56). The illustration for FS (66) dramatizes the inability of the fox to get deeply enough into the vase. Perhaps the most dramatic picture is that of the wolf piping for the kid (78). Morley's interpretation of The Eagle Whose Wings were Clipped (81) is both fresh and attractive; she turns the fable against the cynical fox by moralizing Only the mean-spirited count the cost of doing good or the benefits it may bring them. The book is strong on visual representation of the ancient Greek world, e.g., in the vase painting on 59. If asked for a good, reliable, enjoyable fable book these days, I would certainly think of recommending this one!
Macdonald Young Books: Wayland Publishers Limited
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