by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Candlewick Press; July 2006; 48 pp; $15.99 HC
Core Audience: All ages
Strengths: Beautiful writing and artwork, timeless story
So what do you do when something unexpected shows up in your library—like a lion, for instance? Although there are many rules in the library, there’s nothing on the books about a lion. Therein lays the problem for Ms. Merriweather and her library staff in this lovely picture book. Well, since there are no rules against lions in the library he is allowed to stay as long as he behaves.
It turns out this lion likes to make himself useful, and he especially loves story time. He finds all kinds of ways to be helpful, and everyone at the library loves him. But when the lion breaks the cardinal rule of the library and lets out a tremendous “RAAHHRR!” Mr. McBee banishes him post-haste before realizing that sometimes rules should be broken for very important reasons.
This book is an instant classic, from its rich paper and beautiful illustrations to the timelessness of its writing. It feels as if it could have been written 40 years ago during the great age of picture books. This book is just about perfect in its design and execution. Best of all it doesn’t pander to its audience and fall into the trap of being overly saccharine, or shortchange them with simple sentences or rhymes. This is a meaty story which will stand up to repeated readings for years to come.
A throwback to the classic lions of yore like Don Freeman’s Dandelion, everyone who looks at this book will love it. We should all be so lucky to have this lion in our library.