CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 5. . . .September 30, 2011
The Lion's Deceit.
Mpho Otukile. Illustrated by S.B. Dow.
Winnipeg, MB: Village Life Books (Order from www.villagelifebooks.com), 2011.
32 pp., pbk., $9.99 (plus shipping).
Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.
Review by Trevor Lockhart.
Once upon a time, a lion in the African jungle hunted for food, but every day he would come home empty-handed. Running was hard work, and the lion was lazy. His stomach growled, and he growled too, but he didn't like to run fast like a lion should. One day he decided to come up with a plot to catch animals without running.
These are the opening lines to The Lion's Deceit. The lion gets his co-conspirator, the fox, to tell the animals of the jungle that the mighty lion is ill and would like to see visitors. One by one, each animal comes to the lion's den and is subsequently eaten by the lion without any effort. This plan works until the clever jackal witnesses it in action and warns the rest of the animals of the lion's deceit. The lion learns a lesson about how lions should live and act in nature.
Otukile's story has the trappings of a folk or fairy tale, one in the style of Aesop. The story is fast-paced and told in the narrative third person. Otukile is originally from Botswana, and she now lives in Winnipeg. No doubt her childhood memories of sitting around an open fire listening to stories told by the village elders helped shape her ability to create a morality tale such as this. Younger children may be upset with the casual and callous way the lion disposes of his "friends", but there is no blood or gore in the illustrations, just a little self-satisfied "licking of the lips" by the lion.
Speaking of the illustrations, I found that Dow's pencil and ink-work adequately support the narrative, but the drawings are a little generic and could have added so much more the enjoyment of this book if there was something unique about them. To me, Dow was too heavily influenced by The Lion King for my liking.
Another small issue I have is the inconsistencies in capitalization. Sometimes "Lion" is used and other times it's "lion." All the other animals are capitalized, so hopefully this will be addressed in future printings.
Trevor Lockhart is a librarian with the Winnipeg Public Library.
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