A little mouse saves the life of a great lion; hungry Grasshopper, too lazy to store food, gets no mercy from the industrious ants; crafty Jackal tricks Klipspringer to escape death – but is himself tricked by the cock and the dog…. Here are 16 of Aesop’s wise, witty and timeless fables, portrayed for the first time in an African setting.
Nicholas Herrera started life as a mischievous, dyslexic boy, born into one of the old Spanish families of New Mexico. Bad teachers and poor schooling helped him to lose himself in drugs, drinking, riding motorcycles and driving fast cars. A near-death experience, a wonderful mother and a fascination with making art saved him. Today Nicholas Herrera is one of the most noted Santeros in the US. His work is displayed in folk-art galleries across the country and is collected by the Smithsonian. He is noted for the highly personal, political nature of his work and his innovative treatment of what can sometimes be a rather bland art form designed to sell to tourists. His work is intensely personal and even confessional. A survivor of alcoholism and drug addiction, which almost led to his death in a terrible car crash, Herrera is now sober and remarkably productive. His art is his life and his life is his art. Extraordinarily charismatic, Herrera is the grandson, nephew and son of artists. His young daughter is now following in his footsteps.
Migrant farmers and their families represent an ever-growing body of laborers around the world. They are used as cheap labor but most of them are not allowed to settle down, integrate into their host countries and become citizens with full rights. This is, of course, devastating to their children.
Among these groups are the Mennonites from Mexico, who originally went to Mexico from Canada in the 1920s. They speak “Low German” and though many are poor, they are an important part of the Mexican farm community. Because of free trade and the fact that Mexican farmers cannot compete with highly subsidized US farmers, they have been forced to come back to Canada — as migrant workers — in order to survive. Anna is the child of Mennonites from Mexico, who have come north to harvest fruit and vegetables. Sometimes she feels like a bird, flying north in the spring and south in the fall, sometimes like a jackrabbit in an abandoned burrow, since her family occupies an empty farmhouse near the fields, sometimes like a kitten, as she shares a bed with her sisters. But above all Anna wonders what it would be like to be a tree rooted deeply in the earth, watching the seasons come and go, instead of being like a “feather in the wind.”
In these three imaginative stories, Jan Andrews introduces us to Quebec’s traditional folktale hero, Ti-Jean. He’s an endearing character who is both wise and foolish, and though he does find himself in hard situations (often of his own making), in the end, he somehow manages to do what needs to be done. In “Ti-Jean and the Princess of Tomboso” he eventually outwits a greedy princess; in “Ti-Jean the Marble Player” he gets the best of a pint-sized scoundrel; and in “How Ti-Jean Became a Fiddler” he turns the tables on a too-clever-for-her-own-good seigneur’s daughter, and finds true love in the process.
Mimi lives with her parents above her father’s herbalist shop. She hates being Chinese and being teased at school. More than anything she loves to draw, so when her art teacher gives her a box of pastels Mimi is thrilled. These are no ordinary pastels for the inscription on the box warns that they are “A treasure for some, a curse for others”. Mimi is able to draw amazing scenes on the footpath outside her father’s shop and the pastels breathe life into the pictures for those able to see it. When Gemma, her tormentor at school, steals the pastels, Mimi knows she must get them back – not only to keep them safe and their magic intact, but to save Gemma from the pastel’s curse.
Dog lived in the noisiest part of Bialystok. All day long he heard the hubbub of the nearby marketplace, and all night long he heard the banging and clanging of workmen unloading their goods. When he could take the racket no more, Dog set off for the country to find a quieter place to live. On his first night in his new home, a gang of howling and yowling, hissing and screeching cats terrorize him, destroying his newfound peace and quiet. Inspired by a Jewish folk tale, how Dog outwits the rascally cats makes for a humorous, satisfying story, exuberantly illustrated with stunning jewel-toned paintings reminiscent of Marc Chagall’s. Afterword.