In his note following his picture book, The Grasshopper and the Ants (Little, Brown and Company 2015), Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney says the picture book is intended to be an “homage to nature.” The rich details of the summer and autumn turning in to winter certainly provide an appropriate homage. As with his richly illustrated Caldecott Medal award winner, The Lion and the Mouse, each page is full of intricate details, with each stroke adding realistic dimension to the collage of color. Even the snow-white winter scenes have a texture that gives dimension, as the poor struggling grasshopper tries to find refuge from the weather.
I really enjoyed his retelling of Aesop’s fable. In his story, the grasshopper provides a number of compelling reasons for the ants to stop working, but the clever ants and other bugs have plenty to do! Once he finds himself alone, shivering in the snow, the pages are mostly wordless. A beautiful fold-old page shows the grasshopper shivering in the snow and the ants busily working in the ant mound below him. In this version, the Queen Ant is kind, inviting him in for tea, and the grasshopper is able to add his music to the winter warmth in the ant mound.
Although there is much to love about this story, the best part, for me, was the personality in the faces of the grasshopper and the ants (especially the queen ant). It is not necessarily easy to show emotion in an insect face, and yet, Pinkney succeeds at it. One cannot help feeling sorry for the foolish grasshopper!
The Grasshopper and the Ants is a wonderful addition to the Aesop picture book world.
Note: I received a copy of this book for review consideration.