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Lito 2016 Les Fables de Jean de La Fontaine

A visit to Gibert Jeune unearthed this series of twelve La Fontaine fables about 8" x 9 1/2".  I was able to find nine of the twelve.  I just ordered the other three through Amazon.  The backs of these 12-page pamphlets reveal the growth of the series as they picture first three, then four, then seven, then nine, and finally eleven booklets.  A key to understanding these pictures is that the present volume is never pictured with the others then in the series.  

2016 La cigale et la fourmi.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Chiara Nocentini.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  $28.95 from Dorian's Day, Villeurbanne, France, through Ebay, August, '19.

Here is, after I have found the other eleven, the twelfth – and chronologically perhaps the first – member of this series.  Why it had to be so expensive, I do not know.  The original procurer found it, as I did others in the series, at Gibert Jeune for a reduced price.  The cover presents the conflict well, as the grasshopper lies on a leaf playing her guitar, while the ant runs home with a grain.  The title-page presents the same contrast, this time with the two running in opposite directions.  A dramatic page which I did not expect portrays visually the ant's abundance as against the grasshopper's plea.  The next page shifts to the outdoors and the rejection by one of the other.  The grasshopper in winter wears sneakers and a shawl.  With the addition of this booklet, we have all twelve pamphlets in the series.

2016 Le corbeau et le renard.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Séverine Duchesne.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  $2.55 from Amazon, August, '19.

One of the strengths of this big, bold presentation of FC lies in the depiction of the eyes of the two main characters.  One sees Duchesne's care with the eyes on the cover in an illustration that is not part of the booklet's interior. Again, the title-page's illustration, taken from the two-page spread describing the fox's flattery, has strong depiction of both characters' eyes as they regard each other.  Two additional clever touches are the squirrel holding his ears inside the tree as the crow "sings" and the crow, "honteux et confus," blushing in the last illustration.   La Fontaine's verse matches up perfectly with these well-chosen illustrations.  With the addition of this booklet and FS, we have eleven of the twelve pamphlets in the series.

2016 Le lièvre et la tortue.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Crescence Bouvarel.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

This simple pamphlet does a good job of emphasizing La Fontaine's point that the hare dawdles to make it a race worthy of him.  In a key scene, we find the hare resting or stretching next to a tree with an insect on his paw.  This double-page scene is nicely typical of this artist's approach, as a medic fox and hedgehog with a checkered flag hurry along the path behind the tortoise and her two children.  Onlooking birds, lizards, and a mouse help decorate this scene, as picnicking squirrels decorated the previous scene.  Both runners are clothed here.  Twelve pages serve to offer, whenever possible, a double spread uniting two pages.

2016 Le rat de ville et le rat des champs.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Céline Chevrel.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

This simple pamphlet offers two cute and pleasantly contrasting mice.  The country mouse wears coveralls and has a bike and satchel while his city cousin wears a pullover and has his moustache curled.  The city street on which we meet them includes a skateboarding weasel (?) with a backpack-toting companion, as well as three chicks playing a game involving stone tossing.  Later the intruder is seen only from the knees down, but she has a tail and her presence completely disrupts the fine table setting.  The facial expressions in the next two-page scene may be the best in the booklet: both the blasé city-dweller and the slightly angry country mouse. The last scene has them waving to each other, the country mouse on his bicycle leaving town.  Twelve pages serve to offer, whenever possible, a double spread uniting two pages.

2016 Le loup et l'agneau.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Paku.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

This simple pamphlet uses the same basic art on the cover and the title-page:  A large, menacing wolf points a finger at a small lamb.  The first picture then depicts an idyllic scene with the lamb drinking untroubled, surrounded by peaceful creatures.  The wolf then arrives, and Paku has him show the same menacing profile in every one of the following images.  There is a question in illustrating this fable's finish:  Should the artist show the wolf eating the lamb?  Paku has the wolf carrying him off into the woods.  Twelve pages offer five double-page images.

2016 Le lion et le rat.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Thierry Bedouet.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

This simple pamphlet tells the story well.  In La Fontaine, the mouse pops up practically into the lion's paws.  There is no discussion.  The lion regally dismisses the mouse.  Roaring in frustration from the lion's net brings the mouse, who gnaws through the net and sets the lion free.  Perhaps the most surprising image of the five here is the second-to-last: The mouse has so effectively gnawed through the net that he is left hanging on a last rope, while the breaking of the hanging net has plopped the lion onto the ground.  The second image is also very helpful: The lion walks with the mouse held in his paw.

2016 Le renard et la cigogne.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Séverine Cordier. Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  $2.55 from Amazon, August, '19.

This presentation of FS accentuates the human in the animals in several ways.  Both are dressed and stand upright.  The host fox, like a good waiter in a restaurant, carries a cloth draped over his forearm as he seats the stork.  I find the stork's expression surprising and telling as she sees that she cannot eat the fox's offering.  She blushes.  Her eyes are shut.  Her "arms" are crossed over the back of the chair as she does not even sit down to the steaming soup in its shallow bowl.  On the next pair of pages, we see a clever phone call from her rooftop perch to the basking fox on his cell phone.  Next, we see her at work dutifully in an apron in her kitchen.  I appreciate one last touch of Cordier's.  The last pair of pages shows the fox in the distance trudging home hungry and ashamed.  The stork in the foreground holds her head reflectively in her "hand" as she writes someting.  La Fontaine's text is also talking, I believe, about "trompeurs" who deceive by their writing.

2016 Le grenouille qui se veut fair aussi grosse que le boeuf.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Séverine Duchesne.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

Duchesne adds good touches to her five double-pages illustrating this classic story.  The frog on the cover and in the first image lounges on a pod and a rock, respectively, the latter time with a drink nearby.  The second image has her stretching barely above the hoof level of the ox.  The third image comprises four different inflations, while a snail and then the ox look on.  The fourth brings a dramatic yellow splotch outlined in red for the explosion, as the ox is preoccupied elsewhere in the field.  The fifth image is the most creative of all.  As La Fontaine speaks of human self-inflations, our friend the snail, who has been a part of each picture, looks at a fellow snail who has built a six-storey house on her proud back.

2017 La laitière et le pot au lait.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Sophie Rohrbach.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

This booklet has a good deal of text to get into its five double-pages and does it well.  The turning point for La Fontaine is Perrette's leaping like the calf she will have.  The central page depicts well her disappointment as she holds her hands on her head where the milk had been, cats lick it up, and her husband looks on angrily in the distance.  The following picture then depicts the dream world we might well live in.  Perrette, it seems to me, is cleverly the dream woman in a harem waiting for the dreamer.  The last picture returns to the real Perrette, troubled with her broken milk can at her feet and her hands on her hips.  The back cover of each booklet not only presents others in the series.  It gives a synopsis of a good deal of the story, perhaps to help parents remember what goes on in the fable, without revealing the ending.

2017 La poule aux oeufs d'or.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Maud Lienard.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

This fable has a remarkably short text from La Fontaine.  A promythium announces that avarice loses everything in trying to gain everything.  That aphorism stands in a pleasant farm scene.  The next page shows us the farmer with a golden egg and his hen, and the accompanying text announces him as the evidence for that promythium.  The middle page has just one line: "He thought that the hen's body had a treasure inside."  The next page shows the dead hen in the farmer's hand; the text announces that she was just like any other hen.  Then comes a key line.  In Michie's translation it runs this way: "Thus he destroyed through his own fault the great bonanza he’d enjoyed."  The last page shows him looking at the dead hen on a stump as La Fontaine specifies that this is a moral for greedy or stingy people -- and notes that the turn from rich to poor overnight happens a lot lately through the desire to get rich too soon.  Simple, broadstroke art, often set up almost as a two-dimensional cutout in front of a deeper background.

2017 Le lion et le moucheron.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Daphné Hong.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

Here is another rather lengthy fable that is reduced to presentation on five double pages.  Page One instigates and announces the battle.  Page Two shows the mosquito so troubling the lion that the whole world around trembles in fear.  Page Three has the mosquito further enraging the beast, so that, "By himself the poor Lion to shreds was torn."  Page Four has the lion admitting defeat and the mosquito trumpeting victory – until he flies into a spider's web.  Page Five, with a huge and eager spider advancing on the mosquito, announces two morals.  Among your enemies, you need often fear the smallest.  And, in Spector's words, "From great perils one may well escape,/Only to die in the slightest scrape."  The art is big, dramatic, cartoonish.

2017 Le chêne et le roseau.  Jean de La Fontaine.  Illustrated by Lili la Beleine.  Paperbound.  Champigny-sur-Marne, France: Lito Les Fables de La Fontaine: Éditions Lito.  €2.50 from Gibert Jeune, Paris, June, '19.

The strength of this big, bold presentation of OR lies in the contrast between the huge oak and the single reed that is his counterpart in this story.  The first of the five illustrations has the oak taking up almost all of the left-hand page, while we need to search a bit to find the reed in the lower right corner.  The perspective moves out, and we see the tree solidly lodged in the land mass, while the reed sways at the edge of the nearby water.  In the third illustration, the oak is finishing speaking, saying again that nature has been unjust to the reed.  This clever illustration is from above the tree as it looks down on the frightened reed, and we can see the massive reflection of the tree in the blue water.  But leaves are already flying.  The fourth page has text combining the reed's confident answer and the rise of a heavy storm from the North.  The tree here is frightened and the reed relaxed.  In the fifth, the tree at first resists while the reed bends; but then the tree is torn up from the roots – this tree that reached into the heavens "and its roots into the empire of the dead."  The reed in this last picture has the hint of a smile.  La Fontaine's artistry here, I believe, lies in presenting the arrogance of the tree as it looks pityingly on the reed.  "If you were only closer, I could protect you."  Not true!  My dear tree, you overestimate yourself!

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