The Grasshopper and the Ants

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
The Grasshopper and the Ants Book Poster Image
Twist on classic fable boosts value of play as well as work.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This retelling of the classic Aesop's fable has information about ants and what work they do to prepare for the winter.

Positive Messages

Work hard to prepare for the future. Share what you have. Art and entertainment are important, too.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The ants work hard to prepare for winter and secure their future. They work as a community. They also share what they have with the grasshopper. The grasshopper contributes music.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Grasshopper and the Ants is by award-wining author-illustrator Jerry Pinkney, who won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for The Lion & the Mouse. This one's another Aesop fable: The ants toil while the grasshopper plays. But Pinkney's version isn't harshly moralistic. In his kinder, gentler tale, the ants invite Grasshopper in from the cold and share their bounty, and Grasshopper contributes to the colony in his own way. He not only plays, he plays music, entertaining the ants, who enjoy a music-making break. The takeaway: Work is important, but art and play have value, too. 

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What's the story?

THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANTS is the Aesop fable, slightly softened. Grasshopper wants to play, while the ants don't have time to relax: Autumn is coming! They toil, while Grasshopper has fun fishing, picnicking on leaves, and making a "snow-hopper" in winter. The ants are pictured busy with the sort of work humans do: spinning wool, feeding the fire, setting bowls and a casserole on the table. But in this version, the line between work and play is blurred. Grasshopper's a one-man band, toting a banjo and marching drum, and when the Queen Ant invites him in from the cold, he entertains the colony.

Is it any good?

The text of The Grasshopper & the Ants, limited to sparse dialogue between Grasshopper and the ants, anchors us, but the richly detailed illustrations tell the story. Jerry Pinkney has racked up numerous awards, including prestigious Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and he's a practiced hand at fables, having previously tackled The Lion and the Mouse and The Tortoise and the Hare.  

Though the washy watercolor and busy spreads of ants sometimes make it difficult to discern the finer details, a close reading yields benefits: Grasshopper wears maple seed pods as snowshoes! And happily, the moral is not harshly moralistic; when Grasshopper shivers outside, the Queen Ant invites him in for tea. He then plays music for the ants, who join in joyfully, an acknowledgement that there's more than one type of work. Art and entertainment are important, as is the sharing of bounty.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about work vs. play. Why is work important? Why is play important?

  • How do ants work as a community? What sort of work do you think real ants do? What sort of work are these storybook ants doing?

  • Do you think playing music counts as work? How do music and art contribute to a community?

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