About the book (from wikipedia):
Jean de La Fontaine (1621 – 1695) was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional languages.
According to Flaubert, he was the only French poet to understand and master the texture of the French language before Victor Hugo. A set of postage stamps celebrating La Fontaine and the Fables was issued by France in 1995.
The subject of each of the Fables is often common property of many ages and races. What gives La Fontaine’s Fables their rare distinction is the freshness in narration, the deftness of touch, the unconstrained suppleness of metrical structure, the unfailing humor of the pointed the consummate art of their apparent artlessness. Keen insight into the foibles of human nature is found throughout, but in the later books ingenuity is employed to make the fable cover, yet convey, social doctrines and sympathies more democratic than the age would have tolerated in unmasked expression. Almost from the start, the Fables entered French literary consciousness to a greater degree than any other classic of its literature. For generations many of these little apologues have been read, committed to memory, recited, paraphrased, by every French school child. Countless phrases from them are current idioms, and familiarity with them is assumed.
“La Fontaine’s Fables,” wrote Madame de Sévigné, “are like a basket of strawberries. You begin by selecting the largest and best, but, little by little, you eat first one, then another, till at last the basket is empty”. Silvestre de Sacy has commented that they supply delights to three different ages: the child rejoices in the freshness and vividness of the story, the eager student of literature in the consummate art with which it is told, the experienced man of the world in the subtle reflections on character and life which it conveys. Nor has any one, with the exception of a few paradoxers like Rousseau and a few sentimentalists like Lamartine, denied that the moral tone of the whole is as fresh and healthy as its literary interest is vivid. The book has therefore naturally become a standard French reader both at home and abroad.