Fables (Lobel book)

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CM fables.jpg
AuthorArnold Lobel
IllustratorArnold Lobel
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's picture book
PublisherHarper & Row
Publication date
LC ClassPZ8.2.L6 Fab

Fables is a book by Arnold Lobel. Released by Harper & Row, it was the recipient of the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1981.[1]

For each of the twenty fables Lobel's text occupies one page, with his colour illustration on the facing page. He gives a moral to each, but while the moral is genuine, the tone of the fables is cheerful and playful rather than moralistic. For instance, in the first fable a bed-loving crocodile admires the orderly pattern of flowers on his bedroom wallpaper. When confronted with the riot of flowers in Mrs. Crocodile's garden he retreats to his bed in distress, where he is comforted by the neat floral rows of the wallpaper. After that he seldom leaves his bed, becoming a sickly shade of green. The moral is, "Without a doubt, there is such a thing as too much order."

List of Fables[edit]

  • The Crocodile in the Bedroom (A crocodile enjoys the orderly flowered wallpaper in his bedroom, over his wife's messy garden, but becomes sickly upon never leaving)
  • The Ducks and the Fox (Two ducks meet a friendly fox, while taking a familiar path to their pond. But when the fox turns out to be after something else, they decide to search for a new path)
  • King Lion and the Beetle (An arrogant lion king demands that everybody, including a tiny beetle, bow to him. However the King receives a humiliating blow, upon inspecting the beetle's bow)
  • The Lobster and the Crab (An adventurous lobster takes a timid crab on a boat ride through an ocean storm, and both end up enjoying themselves)
  • The Hen and the Apple Tree (A hen finds a talking apple tree outside her house, who invites her out to enjoy its company, but several clues indicate that the "tree" has an ulterior motive)
  • The Baboon's Umbrella (A baboon with an umbrella is advised by a friend to cut holes in it, so he can enjoy the beautiful weather, but things end up going terribly wrong after that)
  • The Frogs at the Rainbow's End (Three frogs travel to the end of the rainbow to secure its treasure, but find another surprise instead)
  • The Bear and the Crow (A bear is determined to impress the townspeople with his fancy dress, but falls for some bad fashion tips from a troublemaker crow and ends up humiliated)
  • The Cat and his Visions (A cat has great visions of a fish feast while fishing, but they gradually wane as time goes by without a nibble)
  • The Ostrich in Love (A shy ostrich takes great measures to show his love for a female, but can't bring himself to tell her how he feels)
  • The Camel Dances (A camel teaches herself how to dance, but is not able to impress anyone but herself with her skills)
  • The Poor old Dog (A homeless dog with shabby clothing finds a ring and wishes for better conditions immediately. While nothing does change immediately, things do work out later)
  • Madame Rhinoceros and her Dress (A rhinoceros is enamored with a dress she sees and she buys it. However she has second thought upon trying it on, and receives mixed reviews from others)
  • The Bad Kangaroo (When the school principal becomes fed up with a young kangaroo's pranks, he wishes to meet with the kangaroo's parents, but is in for an even bigger surprise)
  • The Pig at the Candy Store (After a dream of candy, a pig wakes up with a craving for some, and darts to the candy store, even knowing that candy isn't the healthiest thing for him)
  • The Elephant and His Son (A young elephant's singing distracts his cigar smoking father, who's so focused on reading his newspaper, he doesn't even notice another disaster about to happen)
  • The Pelican and the Crane (A crane invites an outcast pelican to tea, and learns there's a reason he's an outcast)
  • The Young Rooster (After the death of his father, a rooster initially struggles to assume the responsibility of waking the sun every morning, but his second attempt shocks everyone)
  • The Hippopotamus at Dinner (A hungry hippopotamus greedily overindulges at a restaurant, and ends up regretting it)
  • The Mouse at the Seashore (A young mouse endures several hardships on a journey from his parents to the ocean, but declares it was worth it)


ALA wrote "Short, original fables with fresh, unexpected morals poke subtle fun at human foibles through the antics of animals. . . . The droll illustrations, with tones blended to luminescent shading, are complete and humorous themselves.",[2] while Kirkus Reviews found "there's not a jot of wit, wisdom, style, or originality in these 20 flat and predictable items. The illustrations ... suffer for having less to illustrate."[3] Horn Book wrote, "the author-illustrator has invented twenty animal fables with an original flavor" and "Each miniature narrative occupies a page by itself and is balanced by a full-page picture which reflects the crucial event of the fable and portrays the joyfully conceived characters."[4] Publishers Weekly called the book "the most remarkable of the author-illustrator's 60-plus, bestselling award winners."[5] In a retrospective essay about the Caldecott Medal-winning books from 1976 to 1985, Barbara Bader wrote that "in Lobel's natural hand, in spontaneous, cartoony sketches or comic stylizations, the work would have had more sparkle and less ponderousness."[6]


  1. ^ American Library Association: Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present. URL accessed 27 May 2009.
  2. ^ "Fables". www.buffalolib.org. Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  3. ^ "Fables". www.kirkusreviews.com. Kirkus Media LLC. August 1, 1980. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  4. ^ "Horn Book reviews of Caldecott Medal winners, 1980-1989". www.hbook.com. Media Source Inc. October 14, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  5. ^ according to the back cover of the book
  6. ^ Bader, Barbara (1986). "The Caldecott Spectrum". In Kingman, Lee (ed.). Newbery and Caldecott Medal Books 1976-1985. Boston: The Horn Book, Incorporated. p. 298. ISBN 0-87675-004-8.
Preceded by
Ox-Cart Man
Caldecott Medal recipient
Succeeded by