The Hare and the Tortoise: And Other Fables of La Fontaine
Ranjit Bolt. Barefoot Books, $19.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-1-905236-54-1
Taken individually, the 19 fables in this collection are tolerable retellings, but readers of a few will suffer acute rhyming-couplet overload. Bolt, a translator of Moliere and Aristophanes, generally opens with a salutation (""You want a piece of good advice?/ There is no harm in being nice"") and proceeds to a lesson in animal/human folly (""You shouldn't dish it out if you/ Aren't ready to receive it too,"" ends ""The Fox and the Stork""). Along with standbys like the title fable and ""The Grasshopper and the Ant,"" Bolt includes the tale of a wolf who envies a well-fed dog until he notices its collar (""With that, the wolf went on his way,/ Quite free, as he still is today""). The language can be oddly colloquial, as in ""The Frogs,"" who ""thought democratic rule/ (Their current system) wasn't cool."" When the frogs demand a king, ""Jove"" sends first a log, then a frog-eating crane, but the moral to this political satire rings false (""Instead of hating what you've got,/ Try and be happy with your lot""). Potter's (Trudy and Pia) gouaches, awash with mossy greens, robin's-egg blues and tapestry hues, allude to La Fontaine's 17th century. Yet the stiff layouts, with long columns of text, make an awkward match with her delicate, flyaway style. Audiences will disengage quickly from the plodding poetry and repetitious page design. Ages 8-up.
Reviewed on: 09/04/2006