________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 24. . . .February 22, 2013


Lion Adventure.

Willard Price.
London, UK: Red Fox Books (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 1967/2012.
245 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-849-41747-1.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Aileen Wortley.

*** /4



He shouted in English. He shouted in Swahili. He shouted in no language at all. He listened hard for a response, but he heard nothing-except the distant roar of lions.

At the moment the hyenas were busy finishing off the beast that Hal had just knifed. Hal, drained of all energy, sunk into unconsciousness.

He did not know how many seconds or minutes, he lay thus, before he was roused by the growls of lions. These were followed at once by the uproar of a fight between the hyenas and the new comers. This was very brief, for a hyena has no wish to tangle with his most powerful enemy, the lion. Squealing in pain and yipping with terror, the hyenas made off across the desert.

Hal did not feel he had made a very good bargain. His shouts had attracted animals far more dangerous than the hyenas. But perhaps they had gone away. Cautiously, he looked out from under the jacket. No, they were still close to him, and creeping close-three bristling bodies silhouetted against the stars. They began to sniff at his body.

Suppose they were man-eaters-there were many such in the Serengeti. Then another thought struck him. Suppose they were not man-eaters. The blood on him was not human blood, but the blood of hyenas, and the lion savagely hates the hyena.

But the lions were making sounds that did not seem very savage. They were gurgles and half purrs, the sounds of pleasure that might come from a dog or cat. Then one of the visitors lay down on its back close beside him with all four paws in the air and rubbed its soft whiskers against his face. Another patted him gently with its paw as if inviting him to play. These animals were obviously delighted to find a human. They must have known humans and loved them. They were attracted by the human voice. They had come when he shouted.

He puzzled over it. What was it he had read in the Nairobi papers? Something about the famous Joy Adamson and her three pet lions.


Once a lion tastes human flesh, it will always prefer it above any other prey. Brothers Roger and Hal Hunt, aged 13 and 19 respectively, normally spend their lives capturing exotic wild animals to be sent to world-class zoos. In doing so, the respected Huntís Animal Farm believed they were creating an awareness of the animal kingdom. On this occasion, however, the boys are in Kenya, charged with the task of killing two man-eating lions that have taken the lives of many local people. Denied manpower to assist them, Hal and Roger must cope alone while also thwarting various enemies, each with his own reasons for anticipating his brotherís failure.

     Successfully killing the female lion, they have much more difficulty outsmarting the male that continues its killing spree. Despondent at their failure, they are, however, determined not to be beaten. They borrow a hot-air balloon in order to spot the lion from above. When, in an act of malice, the anchor ropes are cut, the brothers must use every ounce of ingenuity to save themselves as they powerlessly hurtle across Africa. Dashed against mountains, dropped into lakes and canyons, speared by sisal plants and at the mercy of hyenas, snakes and crocodiles, they have ample opportunity to test their resourcefulness and bravery.

     First published in 1967, Lion Adventure is one of seven titles recently reprinted of the 14 adventure stories written by Willard Price between 1969 and 1980. Born in Ontario, Price worked for National Geographic and the American Museum of Natural History, visiting 148 countries in his lifetime. In the process, he amassed a vast quantity of information and a passion for wildlife and the environment. He shared this knowledge via the adventures and brave feats of the Hunt brothers through whose eyes youngsters can learn vicariously.

     Once the reader is drawn into the plot of Lion Adventure, which admittedly takes a little time, it is impossible to put the book down. One death defying adventure follows upon another as the boys encounter the marvels and terrors of Africa. Throw in a trio of people hoping to see their undoing, exotic locales, and an abundance of dangerous animals and the reader cannot but admire our two very young heroes who do more than a manís work! It is all a bit unrealistic but nevertheless gripping. What is realistic and equally exciting is the wonderful information conveyed about animal behaviour, the geography of Africa and, above all, the need for conservation. Engaging descriptions of Joy Adamsonís tame lions coming to Halís rescue and Rogerís stumbling into Dr. Louis Leakeyís archaeology site also add a certain intrigue and fascination.

     There is a downside to this book that includes fairly stereotypical characters as well as a view of animal capture and zoos that is not the most acceptable by todayís standards although it was when the book was written. There is also a slightly patronizing tone when discussing other cultures, also typical of the day. Since the book has so many other good points, these issues would make for stimulating discussion topics.

      There are many testimonials from adults who loved this series as children, indicating how they inspired them to read and gave them an awe of wildlife they have retained. In spite of the weaknesses as judged by the mores of today, Lion Adventure still has a lot to offer in terms of a good fast paced adventure laced with great and fascinating conservation messages. A good read for those aged 9-13.


Aileen Wortley, a now retired librarian, worked for the Mississauga Library System.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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