The Lion and the Mouse

Common Sense Media says

Retold fable with out-of-this-world art; a true keepsake.




Caldecott Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Educational value

The diverse wildlife of the Serengeti figures prominently in this tale. Readers will become familiar with different animals as well as their onomatopoeic sounds. They may also learn that every animal in the wild, whether big or small, has a large role to play in the overall functioning of the wildlife setting.

Positive messages

The classic moral resounds here: No act of kindness is ever wasted. There's also a lesson on humility, respect, and selflessness as the two characters find themselves acting against what is usually expected of their kind. The tiny mouse proves the error of underestimating someone based on appearances.

Positive role models

The lion reins in his wild instincts and makes a better, more civilized choice when he lets the mouse go. He certainly doesn't expect to be repaid for his generosity. The brave and confident mouse is a wonderful example of the worthiness of repaying kindness. Both characters prove to have big hearts as they learn the value of humility, selflessness, and forgiveness from one another.

Violence & scariness

The lion is no gentle kitty: He snarls and growls when he first captures the mouse, then roars in fury when caught up in the poachers' net.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Lion and the Mouse, which won the 2011 Caldecott Medal, is a beautifully illustrated version of Aesop's fable that's wordless, aside from the onomatopoeic sounds of the animals. Grownups who are unfamiliar with the fable may want to revisit it before reading this with their children.

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What's the story?

This is a visual retelling of the classic Aesop fable: A lion, awakened by a mouse climbing over him, catches the tiny animal in his mighty paw. The mouse appeals for mercy and the lion relents. Soon after, the lion is captured in a poachers' net. The mouse hears his anguished roars and comes to his aid, gnawing the ropes until the great creature is freed.

Is it any good?


Parents might expect the lack of text would make this an easy read -- but far from it. Readers are challenged to get involved in the story, to linger and explore each scene of this sumptuous book from acclaimed artist Jerry Pinkney. His illustrations, luminous in earthy golden tones, capture extraordinary nuance and expression in the mouse and the lion. The cover alone is arresting: Filling the front is the lion, looking a bit surprised as he glances to the left; flip the book over and there’s the mouse, in enlarged perspective, facing the lion with a friendly and fearless countenance.

Pinkney treats both the king of the jungle and the humble mouse with respect and affection. These are wild creatures, communicating with growls and squeaks, anxiously tensed bodies and fiercely snapping jaws. They are portrayed as adversaries, momentary friends, leaders of their families, and part of the diverse community in the Serengeti. In Pinkney's hands, this simple fable takes on new depth.

Full-page, expressive illustrations in watercolor and pencil are captivating.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about kindness. Why does the lion release the mouse? Does he expect anything in return?

  • How do you think the lion feels when the mouse arrives to free him?

  • The mouse and the lion are very different animals. In this story, in what ways are they similar?

  • Before you supply the narrative for each spread, ask your child what she thinks is happening in the story. After you've read it together, encourage your child to take a turn "reading" it out loud to you.

Book details

Author:Jerry Pinkney
Illustrator:Jerry Pinkney
Topics:Cats, dogs, and mice, Friendship, Wild animals
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:September 1, 2009
Number of pages:40
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8
Read aloud:3
Read alone:4
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Educator Written bymarilynschaumburg February 19, 2010
Love it! My personal favorite of the 2009 picture books. My grandchildren love it already!
Parent of a 2 and 4 year old Written byCarrieRogers2 February 9, 2010

Amazing for Storytellers Young and Old.

I bought this thinking it would be great for my four year old, who is an art and reading enthusiast. I had the two year old with me, though, and so I sat down and tried to tell her the story the first time I went through the book--- and it was HARD! It has been such a challenge to teach the girls this fable, and now they are learning to tell the story. I am so impressed by this book. The rave reviews it is receiving are well-deserved. It is a great book for parents and children.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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