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Val Biro: Award Publications

Val Biro apparently began in 1983 to create a lively set of texts and illustrations for Aesopic fables. These have appeared in three different series, and I have copies of some in each series.

In 1983 and 1984, Ginn and Company published two sets of six booklets, numbered 1 through 12, printed in Great Britain. Further printings happened in 1985 and 1986. In 1988, they added a third set of six booklets, numbered 13 through 18.

Beginning in 1986, the Wright Group in the USA published Biro's first two series. Beginning in 1990, they added the third set. They were all printed in Great Britain. Their format was exactly the same as the format in the Ginn sets. These pamphlets mention

In 2001, Award Publications in London began publishing pairs of Biro's stories and texts in larger-format pamphlets. I found all eight of these in a supermarket in Nairobi. Two stories from the eighteen stories in the Ginn and Wright booklets seem to have been dropped: "The Boy and the Lion" and FC. These are the same two stories dropped in Award's single publication of 2007, Treasury of Aesop's Fables. This set of booklets modifies Biro's texts slightly as they run across the top of the book's pages. Then a second text in different font is added at the bottom of the page, repeating the substance of Biro's shorter text and amplifying it. These booklets were printed in Malaysia. Their covers are marked by small portraits of main characters in the corners of the frames on both front and back covers. The center of the front covers offers an illustration from both of the stories presented.

2001 The Donkey and the Lapdog and The Lion and the Mouse.  By Val Biro.  Paperbound.  London: Award Publications Limited.  £ 1.50 from Award Publications, March, '04.  Extra copy for 340 Kenya Shillings at Nakumat, Nairobi, Jan., '05. 

This volume belongs to a set of eight large 8½" x 9½" pamphlets illustrated by Biro, most containing one longer and one shorter story.  Each page contains a head-line which repeats above the illustration part of what will be written just below it on the same page.  Apparently this method is meant to offer help to the intended audience of "first readers," mentioned on the back cover.  Biro's style remains engaging, and he explains important elements of the story well.  Thus here, the text emphasizes that at mealtimes the lapdog sits on people's laps.  The text also has the donkey seeing what goes on inside the house through the window--since the donkey is of course not allowed into the house.  In short order, the donkey capers, brays, and jumps onto his master's lap.  LM is told much more briefly.

2001 The Fox and the Stork and The Man, His Son and the Ass.  By Val Biro.  Paperbound.  London: Award Publications Limited.  £ 1.50 from Award Publications, March, '04.  Extra copy for 340 Kenya Shillings at Nakumat, Nairobi, Jan., '05.

This volume belongs to a set of eight large 8½" x 9½" pamphlets illustrated by Biro, most containing one longer and one shorter story.  Each page contains a head-line which repeats above the illustration part of what will be written just below it on the same page.  Apparently this method is meant to offer help to the intended audience of "first readers," mentioned on the back cover.  Biro's style remains engaging, and he explains important elements of the story well.  Thus, at the fox's dinner, the absence of spoons--which the stork would be too polite to ask for--is mentioned.  I do not think that I have seen "spoons" mentioned in this story before.  Similarly, the stork knows that the fox is too polite to pick up his jug and tip the meat into his mouth.  The faces which Biro gives to the stork on the title-page and to the fox on the story's last page are excellent.  The workmen in MSA suggest that a donkey is good for carrying two people, and thus the double load is here not an original idea of the man.  After each encounter, the man (not identified as a miller here) thinks that he should please the person who has given him advice.  Both father and son wear turban-like headgear.  At the end, they fall into the water with the donkey. 

2001 The Monkey and the Fishermen and The Ass in the Pond.  By Val Biro.  Paperbound.  London: Award Publications Limited.  £1.50 from Award Publications, March, '04.  Extra copy for 340 Kenya Shillings at Nakumat, Nairobi, Jan., '05. 

This volume belongs to a set of eight large 8½" x 9½" pamphlets illustrated by Biro, most containing one longer and one shorter story.  Each page contains a head-line which repeats above the illustration part of what will be written just below it on the same page.  Apparently this method is meant to offer help to the intended audience of "first readers," mentioned on the back cover.  Biro's style remains engaging, and he explains important elements of the story well.  The former story here may or may not work.  It tells of the monkey who wanted fish and so tried to imitate the fishermen who spread a net, only to get tangled in the net.  The monkey is told by the rescuing fishermen that he needs to learn about fishing before he does it.  In the end, the monkey realizes that he does better catching and eating coconuts.  The final lines of SS pay appropriate attention to the "broad grin" on the farmer's face and the scowl on the ass' face.  In fact, Biro's facial expressions are excellent thoughout this tale.

2001 The Sick Lion and The Hare and the Tortoise.  By Val Biro.  Paperbound.  London: Award Publications Limited.  £1.50 from Award Publications, March, '04.  Extra copy for 340 Kenya Shillings at Nakumat, Nairobi, Jan., '05. 

This volume belongs to a set of eight large 8½" x 9½" pamphlets illustrated by Biro, most containing one longer and one shorter story.  Each page contains a head-line which repeats above the illustration part of what will be written just below it on the same page.  Apparently this method is meant to offer help to the intended audience of "first readers," mentioned on the back cover.  Biro's style remains engaging, and he explains important elements of the story well.  The first story here includes elaborate deceptions by the lion to lure the first victim in.  Then it becomes an account of copycat behavior, with various animals showing how fearless they are.  The best facial expressions may belong to the goat.  TH skillfully repeats important words: "hop, hop, hop," "plod, plod, plod," and, most tellingly, "snore, snore, snore." 

2002 The Bear and the Travellers and The Ducks and the Tortoise.  Val Biro.  Paperbound.  Printed in Malaysia.  London: Award Publications Limited.  £3.20 from George Answell, Kent, through EBay, Dec., '03.  Extra copy for 135 Philippine Pesos from Powerbooks, Manila, August, '03.  Extra copy for 340 Kenya Shillings at Nakumat, Nairobi, Jan., '05. 

This volume seems to belong to the set from which I already have two other volumes, but the three booklets are printed by different companies.  See The Ass in the Pond by Ginn in 1984/85 and The Eagle and the Man by the Wright Group in 1986.  Here two volumes are grouped together in a large 8½" x 9½" pamphlet.  Each page contains a head-line which repeats above the illustration part of what will be written just below it on the same page.  Apparently this method is meant to offer help to the intended audience of "first readers," mentioned on the back cover.  TB has an older and a younger friend.  The latter forsakes the former.  The bear surprises them at very close range and chases them.  Does not this element hurt the story when the chasing bear comes upon one of the two men suddenly dead?  The old man is offering his staff as a weapon for the young man to use when the latter climbs up into the tree.  Biro's illustrations have fun with the story.  The inciting element in TT is not drought or any other danger but the tortoise's desire to fly.  Whereas the tortoise in many versions of this story opens his mouth to say something harsh in response to the crowd, the tortoise here opines that the people below must think that he is very clever.  Apparently the "thump" of his fall does no permanent damage to the tortoise.

2002 The Boy Who Cried Wolf and the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs By Val Biro. Paperbound. London: Award Publications Limited. 135 Philippine Pesos from Powerbooks, Manila, August, '03.  Extra copy for 340 Kenya Shillings at Nakumat, Nairobi, Jan., '05. 

>This volume belongs to a set of eight large 8½" x 9½" pamphlets, each containing one longer and one shorter story illustrated by Biro. Each page contains a head-line which repeats above the illustration part of what will be written just below it on the same page. Apparently this method is meant to offer help to the intended audience of "first readers," mentioned on the back cover. The setting is clearly from the Arabic world, as one notes in the turbans and minarets. In BW here, the boy does not laugh out loud after the first deception. The second day, the townsmen see the boy laughing and realize his deception. Biro's wolf, when he does appear, is terror-inspiring! The wolf eats all the sheep. GGE contains the great line after they have cut the goose open to find the gold inside: "But the goose was full of goose." The accompanying illustration has the man holding the back end and the wife the front end of the split goose.

2002 The Eagle and the Man and Town Mouse and Country Mouse. By Val Biro. Paperbound. London: Award Publications Limited. 135 Philippine Pesos from Powerbooks, Manila, August, '03. Extra copy for 340 Kenya Shillings at Nakumat, Nairobi, Jan., '05. 

This volume belongs to a set of eight large 8½" x 9½" pamphlets illustrated by Biro. Here the two stories are of about equal length. Each page contains a head-line which repeats above the illustration part of what will be written just below it on the same page. Apparently this method is meant to offer help to the intended audience of "first readers," mentioned on the back cover. Biro's style remains engaging. The man has released the eagle from the net in which he found him. Soon the eagle carries off the sleeping man's hat. The man wonders why, until he returns to the spot of his nap and finds that the old wall next to his sleeping place had fallen onto it. The country mouse in the second story lives in a ditch. In the city, a man sweeping in the larder calls the dog to catch the mice. 

2002 The Farmer and His Sons and The Ass in the Lion's Skin.  By Val Biro.  Paperbound.  London: Award Publications Limited.  135 Philippine Pesos from Powerbooks, Manila, August, '03.  Extra copy for 340 Kenya Shillings at Nakumat, Nairobi, Jan., '05. 

This volume belongs to a set of eight large 8½" x 9½" pamphlets illustrated by Biro, most containing one longer and one shorter story.  Each page contains a head-line which repeats above the illustration part of what will be written just below it on the same page.  Apparently this method is meant to offer help to the intended audience of "first readers," mentioned on the back cover.  Biro's style remains engaging.  The characters in the first story are Italian or German, to judge by their dress and accessories.  The lazy sons lounge around in the shade of a tree.  After their father's death and their energetic digging up of the vineyard, they are back to lying around under the old tree … until the harvest surprises them by its quality and abundance!  In DLS, the lion-skin falls off the ass as he romps about, and he does not even notice the loss.  Biro has a great line near the end of the story: "Without his lion's skin he had no lion's courage." 

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