For sharing with ages 10 and under; Rabbit Tales, by John McCormack. New York: Dutton. $9.95.; Fables, by Arnold Lobel. New York: Harper Junior Books. $8.95.
John McCormack's "Rabbit Tales," illustrated by Jenni Oliver, provides some good, quiet moments to share with a child. The book consists of five gems of stories told by rabbits traveling on a train. Each story takes only about a minute and a half to read, which makes the book ideal for very small children with short attention spans.
The device that threads the stories together is a contest to see which is best. Reading all the stories at one sitting isn't necessary; each vignette holds up on its own.
The pastel illustrations are soft in line and color, soothing for a small child. I think if a child has something pretty to look at, he or she will be much more apt to listen attentively.
"Rabbit Tales" is also an ideal book for an older child to read to a little one. My oldest son, Joshua, 11, read the book to my daughter, Autumn, 6. When Josh read the fourth story, "The Shadow and the Wind," even his eyes got big when the rabbit children scared themselves.
"Rabbit Tales" is a gentle book with gentle pictures. I recommend it.
"Fables," written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, held a surprise for me. In my own silent read-through, I decided I very much liked the illustrations but didn't think the text would hold up from a child's point of view. Because I did enjoy a couple of the fables and their morals, which appear at the end of each story, I decided to read the book t my 7-year-old son, Zach.
Zach asked me to read the fables in the order of the pictures he found most interesting. The one-sentence morals delighted Zach, even though I had thought they would go over his head. He found them amusing and understood each one, not only as it related to the story, but also as it might relate to him.
Each fable, one page in length, takes about five minutes to read and discuss. One of the more enjoyable aspects of this book is that the fables do lead to interesting discussions with the child.
Zach's favorite fable was about a cat who was fishing and had a vision of the fish he would like to catch. Zach admitted he felt his own cat probably daydreamed. He was quiet for a moment, and then said, "You know, when I fish, I dream about the fish I'm going to catch."
The fable's moral was: "all's well that ends with a good meal." Zach added, "I really don't like to eat fish, but all's well that ends with a good hot dog."
The illustrations are quite beautiful. The pictures are well defined, so a child will know exactly what each is meant to convey. The colors are rich and accurate.
I recommend this book for children aged about 7 through 10. Even if the child can read alone, this book is most fun when shared with an adult.