Readers must pay careful attention to both the words and the pictures in this quirky, humorous book about a boy who is shouting out, “Lion!” and a lion who is hungry.
The benign expression of the enormous, cartoonish lion on the cover and the fearless stance on the smiling boy, who looks to be African-American, standing nearby are excellent clues to young readers that this will be a humorous tale, with a relatively harmless carnivore. Even so, the lion looks quite menacing on the title page and on the first double-page spread, as he emerges from behind a building to see the boy shouting, “Lion!” Readers are meant to feel befuddled when the lion asks the boy, “What are you doing?” and the boy says, “Trying to find Lion.” The underlying feeling of unease continues when the lion leans in, eyes intent, and tells the boy “I’m looking for lunch.” Readers will be confused, and then delighted, as they observe why the lion, offered some luncheon choices, thinks that grass is too snappy, mushrooms too prickly and berries too stinky. The grand joke comes at the end, when the clever boy forces the lion to sneeze, and there is another play on the same theme on the very last page.
Sly, dark humor for little ones—at its best. (Picture book. 4-7)