From Chinua Achebe, father of modern African literature, comes a vivid fable about power and freedom.
In the beginning, all the animals lived as friends. Their king, the leopard, was strong but gentle and wise. Only Dog had sharp teeth, and only he scoffed at the other animals' plan to build a common shelter for resting out of the rain. But when Dog is flooded out of his own cave, he attacks the leopard and takes over as king. And it is then, after visiting the blacksmith's forge and knocking on Thunder's door, that the angry leopard returns to regain his throne by the menace of his own threatening new claws. In a riveting fable for young readers about the potency and dangers of power taken by force, Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, evokes themes of liberation and justice that echo his seminal novels about post-colonial Africa. Glowing with vibrant color, Mary GrandPre's expressive and action filled paintings bring this unforgettable tale to dramatic life.
Grades 4-6. First published in the 1970s, this political fable still makes provocative reading. GrandPré’s new Lion King–style illustrations both capture the tale’s intensity and provide a needed contemporary look. Leopard, clawless and with small teeth, reigns over a peaceful kingdom until surly Dog, mocked and marginalized for his sharp teeth, takes over the communally built rain shelter and viciously drives Leopard away. Enraged when the other animals fearfully declare Dog their king, Leopard outfits himself with bronze claws and teeth and returns to send Dog off bleeding to a new alliance with the human hunter. From that day on, strong animals attack the weak, and with help from the dog, the hunter kills them all. Though the story sometimes shows its age—particularly in the single reference to the animals’ “wives and their children”—the stately prose will make a profound impression on readers, as will the large, dimly lit close-ups of snarling jaws and strong animal bodies. A great discussion starter, but think before sharing it with younger audiences. Despite similar titles, it’s nothing like Kipling’s “How the Leopard Got His Spots.”