As the warthog dances, pirouettes and leaps across the pages of Alex Beard's newest "Tale from the Watering Hole," he tells absurd lies that any jungle beast would recognize as pure, self-aggrandizing fiction.

“Smarter than you!” he taunts the owl. “Faster than you!” he teases the cheetah. “So tacky!” says one antelope to another. But when the time comes for a new leader, who wins the crown? Why, “The Lying King,” of course!

Beard use his exceptional artistic skills to illustrate and narrate a fun-to-read fable for children that overlies a dark current their parents are sure to pick up on.

“There is so much corruption and cheating in the world today that it seems like the right time to tell the story,” Beard said. “It seems as though our children are exposed to lies and deception so frequently and so casually that there is a risk of them beginning to accept it, to think of it as just the way things are.”

Beard’s “Tales from the Watering Hole” books (there are three others) use a cast of animal characters to illustrate lessons intended to delight and instruct children.

“They are parables, fables. Each has a moral to it, but they are told with humor and in a way that can engage kids’ imaginations,” he said. “Children pick up on so much more than we give them credit for.”

Beard’s first book in the series was “The Jungle Grapevine,” a story about the dangers of believing rumors and passing them on. “Monkey See, Monkey Draw,” relates a story of dealing with limiting self-perceptions and forging new possibilities. And “Crocodile's Tears” aims to makes issues of habitat loss and endangered species understandable by children.

Beard and his family travel to the African savanna almost every chance they get because of his profound connection with the fleeting beauty of nature in an unspoiled environment.

“What I have learned from my trips is that nature is brutally honest,” he said. “And honesty seems to have been devalued by our society. My school’s motto when I was growing up in New York was “Honor et Veritas” — Honor and Truth. Whatever happened to valuing integrity?”

Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St., New Orleans, will host a book release event for “The Lying King” on Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. (UPDATE: Due to weather concerns from Tropical Storm Gordon, the book release has been moved to Oct. 10.)

Next, Beard will begin a do-it-yourself 30-city book tour.

“I’ve been on book tours where you spend the entire time in airports and hotels — this is something different,” he explained. “I’m driving to Austin, then Houston, then San Antonio. In every place I’m going, I have planned events with independent booksellers and at schools. It seemed to me that the best way to get the ideas across is to be there, in person.”

Beard will travel in a big loop to the west coast, as far as San Francisco, then he'll return to New Orleans and his gallery on Magazine Street in early October in time for Art for Arts’ Sake (“I’ll be sitting in a chair on the sidewalk, signing books”).

The next phase of the tour will take him east in a second loop, all the way to New York, before he arcs back home for Thanksgiving.

Because Beard’s fables deal with such topics such as the evil of rumor-mongering, the extinction of species, the risks of self-limitation, and societal corruption, it would be tempting to conclude that he is a pessimist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“I’m an optimist. I believe in mankind,” he says. “In the end, I believe our better nature will prevail.” (Spoiler alert: the warthog gets what’s coming to him.)