"Book Bit" for WTBF-AM/FM, Troy, AL
Being the most forceful does not make you the most influential nor even the strongest. A gentle retelling of Aesop's classic story has the Sun and the Wind trying to decide which one is the stronger. Will fierce winds or warm glow win the bet?
Forest preserves the basic plot of this brief Aesopian chestnut, but recasts the language into typically buoyant, often-rhymed cadences that highlight the Wind's brutality and the Sun's gentleness. Likewise, in the sky over a fanciful landscape through which a lone man in modern dress treks, Gaber pairs off a soft but solid-looking orb sporting rainbow-colored eyes and a benevolent smile against a stormy spirit that is all fierce scowls and swirls of spattered paint. Dedicated "to Peace Makers everywhere," this fresh rendition will please young eyes and ears; consider it as an alternative to the older versions illustrated by Bernadette Watts (1992), Tomie DePaola (1995) or Bee Willey (2000).
This fable is beautifully retold in simple verse, bringing a timeless message to young readers. A man walks along a winding road and is thrown in the middle of a contest between the Sun and the Wind over who can get him to take off his coat. The magical setting and the conflict between the two elements is brought out well in the highly fanciful, painterly illustrations. The Wind, depicted as an angry green-eyed face with bushy eyebrows, tries to blow the coat off the man, but all the huffing and puffing only prompts him to clutch the garment tighter. Then the Sun comes out, also round-faced, but with a gentle smile and rainbow-colored eyes, and warms the surroundings slowly so that the man slips off his jacket and sits down under a tree. The Wind asks, "How did you FORCE him to take off his coat?" Wisely the Sun replies, "Through gentleness I won my way." A spread at the end shows the man playing the flute and tumbling down a rainbow, evoking the happiness and transformation caused by the Sun's gentle approach, with the flummoxed Wind looking down on the scene.
Storyteller Forest recasts this fable from Aesop in simple, crystalline language and occasional rhyme. As a man wearing a coat walks down a road, the sun and wind watch. The wind, puffing itself up, declares that he is stronger than the sun, but the sun challenges: "Let's see who can take the coat off of that man." The gray wind, with pointy teeth, bushy eyebrows, and a fierce visage, whirls away, which only makes the man cling more tightly to his coat. The rosy-cheeked sun, with rainbows in its eyes, brightens the world until the man bursts into song, unbuttons his coat, and uses it for a pillow under a tree. Moral? Gentleness beats bluster. Gaber's wild and vivid images reflect, augment, and illuminate the story: the last spread shows not only lion and lamb, but also a tree in all stages of growth from bare branch to full leaf. A deeply satisfying retelling, worthy of pondering.
Midwest Book Review
Award-winning author Heather Forest, Ph.D. adapts an ancient moral tale in The Contest Between the Sun and the Wind: An Aesop's Fable
, a children's picturebook evocatively illustrated by Parent's Choice Award artist Susan Gaber. The story recounts a day when the sun and the wind chose to engage in a test of strength; whoever could cause an ordinary traveler to remove his coat would be the winner. No matter how forcefully the wind blew, the traveler just clutched his coat more tightly; yet the gentle persuasive warmth of the sun encouraged him to take the coat off on his own! A timeless and highly recommended picturebook tale about the quiet power hidden in gentle persuasion.
School Library Journal online blog, A FUSE #8 PRODUCTION
Of all the fables of all the world, sometimes I think that Aesop's are the hardest to retell. Not that the moral lessons don't still contain great pearls of wisdom for us even to this day. The wisdom and the folly have eerie longevity, that's for sure. The problem is more that Mr. Aesop appreciated brevity. He knew how to get to the heart of a story without a mess of folderol and flippery. That's all well and good if you're writing a book of multiple Aesop fables, but what do you do if you turn one of them into a picture book? As it turns out, author Heather Forest and illustrator Susan Gaber are, between the two of them, no strangers to turning short tales into magnificent works of picture book art, as if by magic. They've collaborated on four books before (my favorite of these being their version of The Little Red Hen: An Old Fable
) and now they return with a lesser-known but no less impressive story. The Contest Between the Sun and the Wind
suggests to us that sometimes force is less effective at solving a problem than simple intelligence. And to be perfectly frank, I cannot think of a more timely notion considering the day and the age in which we live.
For you see, there once was a man walking along a road. As he walked he wore a winter coat. His simple journey caught the eye of both the Sun and the Wind. After the Wind bragged that his strength outweighed that of the Sun, a challenge was made: "Let us see who can take the coat off of that man on the road." Sounded simple enough. Yet when the Wind blew with all its might its efforts only caused the man to clutch his coat tighter to his body. In a huff the Wind gave up, leaving the Sun. And when the Sun burned as brightly as possible, the warm weather gently persuaded the man to remove his outer garment, making the daylight star the unequivocal winner.
Retelling anyone is a bit of a challenge. You have to be certain that your words, for whatever reason, improve upon the original. Retelling long-dead Aesop just ups the challenge that much more. Yet Ms. Forest taps into just the right balance of child-friendliness alongside a kind of faithfulness to the text itself. Put too many words on a page and your book suffers. And in the case of adapting an Aesop fable, the fear would be having too few words to work with. Fortunately you never seem to have too many or too few when Forest is at the helm. A balance is struck. She produces a great story and allows just enough space for an illustrator to get a little creative.
Susan Gaber is one of those illustrators that routinely stuns me, and yet at the same time causes me to scratch my head in confusion. Why on earth is she not better known? Is it because the books she works on are released through small presses like August House? Certainly it cannot be due to her style, which can only be described as delightful. In The Little Red Hen
Gaber employed an almost classic, thick-painted style. Here, in contrast, she's all breezy droplets of paint set alongside luxurious luminous colors. As comfortable with showing the blackened silhouettes of animals surviving a dust storm as the wet R. G. Biv eyeballs of a smiling, happy sun. Sometimes I think that the quality of a book lies in the artistry of its endpapers. At the beginning of this story we just see a man's feet walking down a road. A single grey moth flutters alongside his dusty black shoes. Now turn to the endpapers at the story's finish and there are the man's feet once again. Once again the moth. But the rainbows apparent in the sun's eyeballs now appear alongside the feet, indicating a bit of a spring in his step. This is just one example of Gaber going above and beyond the call of duty. The amount of thought she put into this book is astonishing. Consider the opening of the book where a winding yellow road leaves a land of deep grays and industrial towers (is that Toto I see on the bridge?) and a man leaves it all behind to walk in green dappled fields. There are whole worlds and realms visible in this tale that could only have been hinted at in its simple spare text.
At the beginning of the story are the words, "This book is dedicated to Peace Makers everywhere. - HF & SG". Forest and Gaber follow their own advice. Instead of writing some didactic text about using your head rather than your physical strength to change the world, they just retell an Aesop tale as faithfully and simply as possible. They're not forcing you to see the world in a certain way. Like the Sun in the story this is a book that persuades with gentleness rather than force. A visual stunner and a title that might fly below your radar, this is one of the lovelier picture books I've seen in a while.
Children's Literature Comprehensive Database
Ken And Sylvia Marantz
As he watches a man in an overcoat walk down a road, the Sun challenges the bragging Wind to a contest of strength. Which one of them can take the coat off the man? The Wind blows as mightily as he can; the man just clutches his coat more tightly. But when the Sun shines ever more brightly, and the man finally takes his coat off. The Sun tells the amazed Wind that he did not force the man, but "[t]hrough gentleness … won [his] way." The text is brief and simple, with an occasional rhyme. Gaber employs impressionistic symbols rather than naturalism for the visual tale. The first double-page scene, a gray bird's eye view of the countryside near a city, is sparked by a meandering yellow ribbon of a path or road. Turning the page, we see it is a path to a cliff, with the man surrealistically walking over the airborne path to another cliff. The Wind is depicted as a round gray head with bulging eyes and sharp teeth; the smiling yellow Sun emits multiple yellow rays. Spattered paint suggests the fury of the whipping wind, while the peaceful ending includes rainbows, cavorting horn-players, and animals joining the smiling sun. In a final note, the author asks, "Can gentleness, instead of force, be an effective way to achieve a goal?"