Lisbeth Zwerger has been accorded nearly every prize?that can be given, including the highest international award for lifetime achievement, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal.?Since 1981 she has devoted her extraordinary talents to children's literature, to stories as charming and picturesque as her native Vienna.?Always surprising, always engaging, her artwork combines technical mastery with an insight and gentleness so rare and captivating that she has been correctly called one of the finest illustrators of the twentieth century.
Here are a round dozen of Aesop's instructive tales, including such favorites as ``The Hare and the Tortoise'' and ``The Milkmaid and Her Pail,'' along with lesser-known parables like ``The Man and the Satyr'' and ``The Hares and the Frogs.'' A single illustration faces the one-page text for each. The separate elements of this collection are well executed: the text is crisp and succinct, the ink-and-wash illustrations delicate yet often sharply revealing of character or mood. But they add up to a less than fully satisfying whole. Zwerger's expressiveness as an artist makes one wish for more: to see the fables actually unfold, their characters and situations developed sequentially rather than presented in a single, necessarily static frame. A format containing fewer fables, but devoting more space to each, would have allowed Zwerger to realize more fully the wit and wisdom of these classic tales. Ages 3-up. (Oct.)
Gr 1-3-- Just when it appears as if every possible interpretation of the fables attributed to Aesop has been done, the acclaimed Zwerger produces a thoughtful version that is filled with wit and wisdom. Twelve fables are retold with an economy of language, stressing the universal truth behind each moral. There's a satisfying blend of well-known favorites such as ``Town Mouse and Country Mouse'' and ``The Hare and the Tortoise,'' rounded out with selections usually overlooked in most collections. Opposite each fable is a colored-ink and wash illustration. Utilizing a somber range of browns, grays, and blues, Zwerger periodically includes a dash of bright red to catch viewers' eyes. The luminous colors make her use of the white space even more noticeable. The illustrations seem to be inspired by Winslow Homer in both their composition and restrained use of color. The characters--both animal and human--are executed in a fairly realistic manner which accommodates Zwerger's impish sense of humor. The balance between each page of text and its accompanying illustration is pleasing, with the book's overall effect being one of a leisurely journey through the reasons for human behavior. A fine addition to larger collections desiring another interpretation of Aesop's fables. --Denise Anton Wright, Library Book Selection Service, Inc., Bloomington, IL