Tug-of-War by John Burningham

tug of war

John Burningham
5 Stars

Elephant isn’t very nice to Hare. Hippopotamus is just as mean when it comes to teasing Hare. Finally hare has decided he has had enough. He gets a rope and goes and challenges Elephant to a tug-of-war. Then he tells Elephant to wait until he tugs the rope. Then Hare takes the other end down to Hippopotamus and declares that he would win at the tug-of-war game. Soon Elephant and Hippopotamus are pulling a rope against each other even though they both think that Hare is on the other end. Eventually Elephant and Hippopotamus realize what is going on…but by then Hare has proven that he might not be as strong as the bigger animals, but he is far more clever.

This is a great story that younger, smaller kids will enjoy reading as they cheer for the smaller, clever Hare. The illustrations are beautiful. One particular red spread illustrates the twilight and sunset, but it also projects the exhaustion mingled with anger and frustration that Elephant and Hippopotamus must have felt. The mixture of scribbled lines of color and dark outlines give the story the feeling of a story that has elements of truth…but is a fable all the same. For example, the outlines and basic shapes are correct, but the Elephant’s ears may be filled in with scribbles of color or Hippopotamus has a few choice lines with spots of texture. This helps the reader understand the possibility of the story while realizing the fact that it most likely never actually happened. With my soft-spot for folk and fairy tale stories, this one hit the spot (and “tugged” at my story-teller’s heart).

What to do after reading this book:
Play tug-of-war.
Visit a zoo and look at the Elephants and Hippopotamuses.
Hop around like a bunny.
See if you can play a trick on someone.
Plan an April Fool’s Day trick.
Draw a picture of a jungle and the animals that live there.
Make up your own story of what the clever Hare does next.

Candlewick Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6575-3
FORMAT: Picture Book, Folk and Fairy Tale
AGES: Preschool, Elementary School

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