cover image Aesop's Fox

Aesop's Fox

Aesop, Aki Sogabe. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201671-5

Though Sogabe's (The Loyal Cat) cut-paper illustrations are glorious, they cannot disguise the pedestrian, plodding tone of the story, which strings together several brief tales about a fox. Many of the vignettes have direct roots in Aesop (""The Fox and the Grapes""; ""The Fox and the Crow""), yet the delivery of the morals seems strained. For example, when Fox decides the elusive grapes are sour, a boar conveniently observes the proceedings and remarks, ""We often pretend to dislike what we can't have."" In others, the moral's connection to Aesop is less obvious (e.g., a dying Old Lion beckons to Fox to come closer, and Fox responds, ""No thank you.... Better safe than sorry""). Yet the volume is visually enchanting; each illustration consists of finely detailed foliage of varying shades of greens. Sogabe achieves an exquisite sense of balance not only through pleasing gradations of color but also through the subtle repetition of shapes that dance across the pages. Unfortunately, even with the breathtaking views, readers will likely feel they've had too many lessons for one sitting. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)