Reviews - What do customers think about The Hare And the Tortoise?
A fabulous bunch of fables Nov 25, 2006
Bolt's taken La Fontaine's work and translated a passle into plain English, a feat that required updating the syntax, flogging the rhymes until they obeyed, and making a decent stab at meter. English is a scrappier language for rhymes and rhythms compared to those slick Latinate tongues, and nobody since John Donne has managed to make it sound like it just popped out of your mouth that way, unless you are a rap star.
Bolt makes the poetry flow like conversation, discarding an even meter when it doesn't suit the lines or finishing a sentence regardless of where the rhyme falls. The result is a more natural sound than if it had been hobbled rigidly to its couplets.
Then there's the fables themselves. Many, like the title story, have been done to death. But did you know the tortoise taunts the hare at the end?
"I've won! I don't know where you'd be If you'd a house to lug like me!"
What attitude. I love it!
Many of these fables may not already be familiar, like the haunting "The Man and the Mirror," about a man who at first cannot believe the ugly mug staring back at him is his own:
These mirrors caused him such dismay, At last he hid himself away In a far corner where he know No mirror would offend his view.
Eventually, he sees his reflection in a river and realizes it's time to get a life:
The mirrors stand for others who, By being faulty through and through, Show us that we are faulty too.
And I usually scoff at the "faux naive" school of illustration, but it works here. Potter emulates colonial American folk art, like something you'd see in an old needlepoint or a more sprightly version of Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom paintings.
She does away with perspective, going for a flat picture plane so the characters (both people and animals) frame the text. She used gouache, a type of watercolor, and a palette rich in cheerful spring hues.
This is a keeper; one you'll refer to again and again, and useful for life lessons, just as they were originally intended when set into ancient Sanskrit before working their way into many other languages before La Fontaine.
La Fontaine returns with a splash Nov 9, 2006
"The Hare and the Tortoise" is a gorgeous new collection of La Fontaine fables from Barefoot Books.
Translated by Ranjit Bolt and illustrated by Giselle Potter, "The Hare and the Tortoise and other Fables of La Fontaine" contains nineteen fables as told by La Fontaine. Bolt writes in the introduction that La Fontaine's fables were not, of course, new in the seventeenth century, but "for the quality of his writing and the brilliance of his wit, La Fontaine has to be the king."*
Bolt maintains La Fontaine's sing-song rhythm and rhyme, making "The Hare and the Tortoise" a great read-aloud choice for children graduating from Mother Goose. Potter's illustrations are whimsical fun as usual and a variety of animals adorn every page. "The Hare and the Tortoise and other Fables of La Fontaine" is highly recommended for children from 2-12.