An aging lion and a young rabbit cultivate a lasting friendship.
An old lion, ousted from his former pride and living out lonely days, unexpectedly finds a baby rabbit nestled into the fur of his mane. The lion thinks at first to fatten up the kit and eat it when it becomes large enough. But as time goes by and Old Lion continues to care for (and tell nostalgic stories to) Little Rabbit—Kaichi’s illustrations here are rendered with a deftness and whimsy destined to melt readers’ hearts—Old Lion comes to realize that he loves Little Rabbit. When Hyena, the lion’s occasional meal companion, shows up and threatens Little Rabbit, Old Lion realizes he must take Little Rabbit somewhere safe. The story ends poignantly, with the rabbit skipping off to a relatively more secure future while the lion contemplates his own, a “lonely savanna where his worn-out throne waited for him.” Kaichi’s guileless illustrations positively brim with emotional resonance, but her text, while essentially sound, is a little lacking in polish. The occasional passive voice, too much telling, and unnecessary repetitions clutter the story’s momentum, while some sloppy generalizations (“herd” for “pride”; “rabbit” for the hares that live in the savanna) lessen its impact.
Appealing, emotionally resonant illustrations lift up a less-than-polished text. (Picture book. 3-7)