The Sly Cormorant and the Fishes
. Penguin . Middlesex
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Here is an extra copy of this book. How nice to find another recent adaptation of Aesop! Thirty-nine fables with lively illustrations in color and in black-and-white. Some of the fables are invented, some reconstructed, some turned on their heads. The view of the fables allows Patten to adopt original perspectives and resolutions as he plays with the tradition. In the first fable, the fly says to the spider (7): I insist you are quite unable/To throw me out of an Aesop fable! An egg too big to fit into the hole of the rats who steal it turns out, when they return it, to be the bait of the fox, who eats them and then waits for more rats (11). Some fables change, like that of the fox who waits for the child to be thrown out of the window (18) and FK, where the first king given the frogs is a bullfrog. In the final story, which gives the book its title, the sly old cormorant does take the fish to a new pool, a nice shallow one where catching fish is easy for him (62). Some fables are new to me, like The Cock and the Horse (22). The Rat and the Elephant may typify what happens to fables here: the rat visited the zoo and woke up a cat with its squealing, and the latter gobbled up the egocentric rat (24). The hare wins the race in TH (35), especially after he reads a fable book along the way! Among the best illustrations are those of the weasel before and after eating (26 and 27) and of the cat who has hanged itself (38). Both covers present imaginative composites of several fables' illustrations. There are similar illustrations of FS on 52 and 64; I wonder why. I find the rhyming and the rhythms of the verse weak. Notice the price difference ($45 and $5) between the two copies, both in excellent condition, which I have found!