Monday 4 October 2010

Christian the Hugging Lion

Christian the Hugging Lion by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell, illustrated by Amy June Bates (Simon & Schuster)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781416986621
Reviewed by Di Bates

Sub-titled Based on the true story and Internet sensation, this picture book was co-written by a US psychiatrist and playwright who have previously collaborated and who were fascinated by the true story of a three-month old lion bought by two British men in 1969 from Harrods where you ‘could buy anything’. Christian’s life with John Rendall and Ace Bourke is retold here. The two young men kept the lion in their apartment and treated him as a pet, parading him through city streets and taking him to restaurants, pubs and the beach. As the book says, ‘The three of them had become the most unusual family in all of London.’

In simple sentences, the book tells how, when Christian was grown, Rendall and Bourke flew with him to Africa where he was released into the wild. Sometime later the three were reunited. By then a 225 kg leader of a pride near the Tana River in Kenya, Christian, on seeing them, charged at Rendall and Bourke, not to attack them, but to leap up and hug them. The reunion, shown on YouTube, became internationally famous.

Small children, of course, should be alerted to the fact that lions are wild and ferocious animals, but there is no doubt they will be fascinated by this delightful story. It is well told in this beautifully illustrated book which will probably suit young readers aged five years and up.

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