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The Lion or the Mouse?: Who's Got Game?    by Toni Morrison, Slade Morrison & Pascal Lemaitre order for
Lion or the Mouse?
by Toni Morrison
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've been intrigued by the big name authors writing picture books lately - just reviewed one by Margaret Atwood and then discovered this by Toni Morrison and her son Slade (with effective cartoon style illustrations by Pascal Lemaitre). It's part of a Who's Got Game? series of retellings of Aesop's fables (which also includes Who's Got Game? : The Ant or the Grasshopper?) and of course this one is a new take on the old story of the The Lion and the Mouse.

In the Morrison version, a lion struts around the savannah, ordering all to 'Listen Up!' as he tells them 'No ifs, maybes, ands or buts. / I am the baddest in all the land. / I do what I like. / I do what I can.' Of course, he gets what he deserves in the form of a painful thorn in one of those big, dangerous paws. Given the lion's track record, no-one is very interested in his pleas for help. There are plenty of Little Red Hen style 'Not me's' and excuses like 'a date to keep / a floor to sweep'.

Finally a 'saddest in all the land' lion persuades the small, weak mouse to help him. In a hilarious reversal, the mouse turns into a wannabe bully, who whines at the lion that the other animals laugh at him, while an older and wiser lion wonders 'Is he who wants to be a bully just scared to be himself?' The format (cartoon and rhymes) is fun, but Who's Got Game? : The Lion or the Mouse? also has several important lessons for young and old - about bullies, wannabes and bystanders.

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