A boy and a lion go on a journey to conquer fear.
In the bedroom, a shadow makes a menacing sound. “Richard hug[s] his Lionheart,” a small stuffed lion with a tidy yarn mane and a tag (emphasizing its toyness). But danger threatens, so Richard takes off. Clutching his Lionheart, he runs across a stone bridge, past a town, and into a field. “All around him the grass grew thick, and turned into sticks, and the sticks grew tall, and turned into trees.” That sequence pays loving homage to Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, as do Richard’s pajamas-cum–lion-suit, with tail and leonine hood. Richard’s journey is vast: there are animals of all sorts, toadstools, a magical jungle, tall pointed rocks, a waterfall, and a lost city. It looks like Chichén Itzá, unfortunately relying on the trope of including an indigenous creation to enrich a white child’s adventure. Collingridge’s magnificent paintings employ realism, abstraction, and shifting scale. Grand landscapes harmonize with small, supplementary black-and-white drawings. With posture, texture, and sumptuous, glowing colors, Collingridge maintains a delicate balance between high drama and comfort, risk and safety. Richard loses his Lionheart, then meets him along the way as a full-grown, fully alive lion—enormous and powerful but only a companion and ally rather than savior—when they finally, unforgettably confront the monster.
Spellbinding if flawed. (Picture book. 3-8)