The animals are in the midst of a great famine, so they decide to band together and search for a source of food. They find a wonderful tree with colorful fruit that smells like all the fruits of the world. The problem is they are unable to eat any until they know the tree’s name. King lion knows, but he doesn’t like to repeat himself. They must send an animal to him that is willing to make the journey and is able to remember the precious name.
Wallace’s illustrations are very softly tinted, and play with shadow and light. The barren land is filled with cracks and rocks, and a pale sun hangs in the sky, illustrating the animal’s dire circumstances. The beasts are drawn realistically, with chimpanzees, gazelles, zebras, elephants and hero tortoises sharing the pages.