cover image The Tortoise or the Hare

The Tortoise or the Hare

Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illus. by Joe Cepeda, S&S/Wiseman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4169-8334-7

In the Morrisons' updated version of this Aesop's fable, Jimi Hare and Jamey Tortoise try to spin their story with the media before the race. "But what story pleases your readers the most," Jamey asks a reporter, "the winner who loses or the loser who wins?" The reporter, an exuberant fox in a party dress, responds, "Oh, they're both important.... But for overall satisfaction, it's when the winner loses." After all the hype, the ending is remarkably anticlimactic—unlike in the original, Jimi comes in first, while Jamey plods in second. The traditional message about perseverance is lost to a murky idea about gaming the system to get what you want: the crown for Jimi, the headline for Jamey. Although the animals are portrayed as parallel misfits—outcast for their quick moves and quick mind—and would seem ideal companions, that development is left to a throwaway final scene. "It's not who wins," the authors conclude. "It's when the runners become good friends." The oil paintings by Cepeda (who illustrated the Morrisons' Peeny Butter Fudge) vibrate with life and color, providing much of the story's energy. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)