One of those books that immediately catches your eye, we picked this up in the library last week, attracted by the intriguing title and the bright orange colour.
A small boy warns us to ignore anything on a cereal packet that offers a free lion in exchange for 100 coupons. He goes on to explain why, telling us the story of how he and his brother collected 100 tokens, but by the time they had eaten all the cereal, everyone else had also already applied for their free lion. When eventually the cereal company gets round to their application there are no more lions left, so instead they send a bear.
This does not go down well with the little boy and his brother. A bear cannot do any of the things they expected their lion to be able to help with. So they complain to the cereal company, who apologise and instead send a crocodile. And then a gorilla.
As you can imagine, the house gets crazier and crazier and no lion ever appears. In the end however, the two boys realise there are advantages to what they have and that just about everyone has a lion; it’s not exciting any more.
There’s a chatty, colloquial style to this book that works well given it’s set up as a recount. Moments like “how unfair is that?!” have an authentic ring of normal speech and make it easy to read aloud effectively as well as appealing to young independent readers. I think it’s probably a little too long and the pacing feels off at times but overall the story hangs together well and there’s a comic coherence to what’s going on. The illustrations by Jim Field are very successful, if occasionally a little too busy on some pages, but there are some great double page spreads such as the one where the park is filled with 19 lions and their owners.
The message of the book is to accept what you have, even when that’s a bear, a crocodile and a gorilla instead of the lion you wanted, but it makes the point to look at the uses and opportunities you already have in a fun and creative way.
Overall a light-hearted and entertaining book with a core of meaning.