Natalie Portman's Fables

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Natalie Portman's Fables Book Poster Image
Familiar tales get a cute new spin in lively picture book.

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Educational Value

A great read-aloud, Natalie Portman's Fables is packed with big, fun words like "vineyard," "chandelier," "snappy skyscraper," and "foundations," as well as a few made-up ones like "townsimals."

Positive Messages

The oft-told tales, and their morals, get a bit of a 21st century update: The victorious Tortoise observes, "A life lived attentively is the completest." The sensible pig notes, "Planning and thinking out how to build cleanly/ Makes your house sturdy/ And keeps our Earth looking greenly." The country mouse concludes, "See? You don't need all that stuff," and his cousin agrees: "True friends are more than enough."

Positive Role Models

The slow but steady tortoise and the wise, hardworking, green-building pig appealingly model the values they represent. The country mouse soon learns to see past the glitz and appreciate what he has. The hare is easily led astray by parties and distractions. The lazier pigs are living like, well, pigs, until the wolf comes along.

Violence & Scariness

A cat briefly terrorizes mice before they flee to safety. The wolf blows down the houses of the two less wise pigs, but is lured by the third into a pot of boiling water, from which he runs howling.

Language

The Hare engulfs the Tortoise in a giant orange bunny fart: "It smells like when carrots come out in a poo." A pig is into flicking boogers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Natalie Portman's Fables is a cute, updated retelling of "The Tortoise and the Hare," "The Three Little Pigs," and "Country Mouse and City Mouse" by the accomplished, multi-award-winning actor Portman, who may be most familiar to little kids as Padmé Amidala of Star Wars fame. It's a fun read-aloud in verse, with interesting words like "chandelier" and "skyscraper." Janna Mattia's cute, whimsical full-color illustrations offer lots of intriguing detail to explore (and tell the stories for those who might not be quite ready for the words). The updated messages -- to practice mindfulness, respect the Earth, and understand the importance of true friends -- are positive and upbeat, and the foolish characters learn better ways. Though, in the case of the Hare, not before he's launched a giant carrot-scented fart at the Tortoise.

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What's the story?

NATALIE PORTMAN'S FABLES are a retelling, in verse and illustrations, of centuries-old fables: a tortoise, against all odds, bests a hare in a race; two foolish pigs nearly fall prey to.a wolf, but their more prudent brother saves them; two mice learn that true friends and the simple life are best. The tales get a bit of a 21st century spin, with messages favoring mindfulness and green building.

Is it any good?

These lively, vocabulary-rich retellings of classic tales offer upbeat messages, lots of humor, comical illustrations, and 21st century spins favoring mindfulness and green building. Along the way, Natalie Portman's Fables has lots of hilarious little touches, like the Little Pig who, being more one for eating than working, builds his house out of chopsticks and discarded takeout containers -- which doesn't last long when the wolf arrives. Janna Mattia's colorful, lively illustrations bring the characters and situations to life, and offer lots of storytelling detail for kids who might not quite follow the words yet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the original versions of the stories in Natalie Portman's Fables. How are these updated fables different? How are they the same?

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  • the fables -- stories that also teach a lesson -- in Natalie Portman's Fables. Do you think it makes a point better to tell a story about it than if you just say it? Which fables do you think do this really well?

  • Fables are stories that also teach a lesson. Is it better to make a point by telling a story than by just saying it? Which fables do this really well?

  • Do you like rhyming words? How can telling a story in rhyme make it more fun?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and animal tales

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