Thursday, March 4, 2010


Since I've been laid up with a broken ankle I haven't had a chance to get to the library. That means that I haven't been reading any new children's books. And although I want to go through my collection and start reviewing those classic titles, there has already been a lot said about so many of those books. I mean, what hasn't been said about Sylvester and the Magic Pebble or Where the Wild Things Are? I do plan to go through my library but like any reader, I crave the new books.

So one afternoon my husband did the sweetest thing for me. He went to the library and although he doesn't know anything about children's books or children's book authors, he picked up some titles for me. He randomly grabbed a stack out of the B's and brought them home for me. One of those titles was Jan Brett's beautiful book "Honey...Honey...Lion!".

Honey...Honey...Lion! tells the story of the symbiotic relationships between the Honeyguide bird and the Honey Badger. The honeyguide will find honey and then lead the honey badger to the spot. The badger uses its sharp claws and strong arms to open the hive up. Then they both feast. That is until one day when honey badger gets greedy. He decides to keep all the honey for himself and not give honeyguide a single bite. And honeyguide gets angry. She hates to be tricked. So the next day she decides to get even. She calls out that she has found honey and then leads the badger through grass filled plains, over logs, and into water holes. And finally she leads him right into a lion. The lion is startled, the badger is startled, and badger just barely manages to get away. The inhabitants of the plains spread the moral of the story to always share.

The story is such a wonderful blend of fact and fiction that I was fascinated by it along with being entertained by it. Honeyguide birds and honey badgers are real creatures living in Africa and do have a very successful partnership when it comes to getting honey. After reading the book I decided to read up a little more on these creatures. I'm sure any children reading would do the same. They are such beautiful and interesting creatures, that I'm sure they will inspire curiosity. I'm not sure if the rest of the story is true, about what happens when the partners don't share. Like Aesop's fables the story is told with a moral in mind. And in many ways the book felt like an Aesop's fable. But the wording choices and sound effects made for a much more exciting story than any that Aesop ever came up with. Brett uses sound effect to create a great book for read alouds. Children will love to hear how the badger boomed over the log, or clickey-clicked through the papyrus reeds. They will love the repeated call of the honeyguide (honey, honey, honey) and how it is turned into Lion, Lion, Lion!!. This book is such a wonderful read but I was equally impressed with the images.

Like all Jan Brett's books, this story is visually beautiful. Brett uses watercolor and gouache to create images that are vibrant and realistic. One of my favorite things about Jan Brett's books are the beauty and realism of her animals. The African setting is perfect for showing off this talent. Each page is filled with animals, beautiful settings, and action. The layout of the book is unique. Brett divides many of the pages into three sections. The main action takes place in the center of the page with beautiful portraits of the participants, landscape scenes, or African artwork on either side. It gives the book the impression of being nonfiction. And in many way it is. This is a wonderful read aloud book that will get kids interested in animals and tells a great story. The book may have a moral but it is never preachy. The beauty of the illustrations and the great word choices makes it far too entertaining to be preachy. A fantastic book.

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