Toni Morrison, with the help of her son, Slade Morrison, has written several children’s books in contrast to some of her more serious adult novels, such as Beloved or A Mercy. In their newest children’s book, The Tortoise or the Hare, they put a new spin on the well-known story of competition and winning.
Instead of putting heavy focus on winning and losing, Morrison uses the characters Jimi Hare and Jamey Tortoise to redefine success. Jimi Hare and Jamey Tortoise prepare for the race in two very different ways–one through athletic training and the other through clever strategizing. In a surprise twist, Jimi Hare crosses the finish line first; however, both feel as through they have won in their own way. By providing two different views of success, Morrison communicates a new attitude about competition and friendship. The Tortoise or the Hare provides an intriguing story recommended for children ages 4 through 8; however, complete understanding of the message require familiarity with the classic tale from Aesop’s fables.
Beautiful oil-paint illustrations by Joe Cepeda bring the story alive with bright colors and bold lines. The usage of paint provides a textural element that covers each page with richness and depth. Even on pages that are primarily white, the visible brush strokes that cover the page will engage children in both the artwork and the story. Many different types of animals are portrayed alongside Jimi Hare and Jamey Tortoise, allowing for plenty of opportunity for rich discussion and interaction between reader and child. The detailed illustrations in combination with the unique and fresh storyline make The Tortoise or the Hare an exciting and new addition to the world of children’s literature.
Grace and Abby