Aesop in California
. Heyday . Berkeley, Calif.
PZ8.2.H253 Aes 2013 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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This is a surprisingly engaging book. Fifteen fables are well thought through, well written, and beautifully illustrated, all using plants and animals related to California at some time in its history, even down to pizza and lifesavers and birthday cake on a kitchen counter. Each of the fables gets a two-page spread. A good introduction includes Hansen's reason for including morals: he grew up hearing the fables with a moral attached and decided to present them in that familiar way (ix). Many morals are proverbial, like the first two. Traditional Aesopic characters, like the crow and bull, yield respectively to native characters like the yellow-billed magpie and the bull elephant seal. CP uses a basket bottle, and TB has a prospector, a bear, and a hollow log. The animal in each initial appears also somewhere in the fable's illustration. In TH, the tortoise makes this proposition: if he wins, the jackrabbit must let him sleep in peace. The hare deliberately takes a little nap. In BF, the jay uses string. In GA, the ant gives in but the grasshopper promises to work first and play later next year. In this version of The Bull and the Fly, the kelp fly gets the last word over the elephant seal: You'll never find another fly like me! The illustration for FK shows a particularly good King Log. The Meadowlark and Her Children includes a beautiful big old tractor. It has a surprising moral: Your mother knows best. This fable goes through three phases. In the first two the farmer waits for friends; in the third, he changes clothes and gets onto the seat of his tractor. In LM, there's a cord to open the metal trap. The mouse brings it to the lion. At the end there is a section of Fabulous Facts, offering abundant details about the animals, plants, and locations depicted in each fable. There is also a map of California on the back cover pinpointing where the fables might take place. This is a beautiful book, beautifully produced.