Sunday, February 27, 2011

Getting There: The Tortoise or the Hare by Toni and Slade Morrison

Jimi Hare and Jamey Tortoise both have an image problem. Everyone dislikes Jimi. A natural speedster, Jimi is considered a stuck-up show-off. Jamey is slow and sure, but he's dang smart, so smart that everyone calls him stuck-up, too. Both of them need a media makeover, and when the local newspaper advertises a golden crown for the winner of a rematch of their classic race, both of them begin to calculate their strategies.

"What stories please your readers the most," asks Jamey. "The winner who loses or the loser who wins?"

"For overall satisfaction," gushes the reporter, it's when the winner loses."

Savvy Jimi, however, is also into media management.

"But what gets the most attention," he asks her. "the largest crowd or the loudest cheers?"

"Loud cheers excite us all," she replies. "But for overall satisfaction, it's the largest crowd."

Okay. The competitors have their strategy laid out for them, but now it's time for the actual tactics of the showdown. Jimi trains strenuously, honing his fast-twitch muscles and training his mind to retain his focus this time around until he crosses the finish line first, but true to form, he adds some gymnastics moves to draw a huge crowd. Jamey, on the other hand, knows he's not fleet enough of foot to best Jimi in the stretch, but discovering a loophole in the rules, books tickets on rapid transit to get himself to the finish line first.

And this time the outcome is confounding! Jimi wins, but then, so does Jamey, as the headlines show:


Authors Toni and Slade Morrison manage to flip the moral of the well-known Aesop's fable in their latest, The Tortoise or the Hare (Simon & Schuster, 2010). With the former rivals both achieving their objectives and burying the traditional hatchet, everyone wins and no one loses in this ironic twist which spoofs the "game the media" style of modern sports heroes. Joe Cepeda's comic illustrations carry off this rather sophisticated message in agreeable style.

Since this reworking of the fable requires knowledge of the original, pair this one with Janet Stevens' jolly traditional version, The Tortoise and the Hare (Reading Rainbow Books).

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