NEW YORK (AP) — The death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe at the hands of an American bow hunter continues to generate outrage around the world, but bringing kids into the conversation may require some finesse.
That’s where books come in. Many exist to feed the imagination of young readers, teach respect for the majestic beasts and urge them to pitch in and help exotic animals the world over.
Here’s a sampling of books for all ages with lion themes or nonfiction facts, figures and photographs.
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Charcoal drawings of 10 endangered animals in an oversize format, with a majestic lion as the cover boy. In addition to simple counting on a level worthy of very young children, text covers the qualities and behavior of each animal, including elephants, giraffes, pandas, turtles and macaws. Creators Katie Cotton and Stephen Walton urge children to care about protection and preservation. Walton’s drawings are meticulously lifelike. October release, Candlewick.
LAFCADIO, THE LION WHO SHOT BACK
Published in 1963, this was Shel Silverstein’s first children’s book. A 50th anniversary edition was released in 2013. The fable goes like this: A lion eats a hunter in Africa, taking his gun and becoming a crack shot himself. A circus man names him Lafcadio the Great and brings him to New York City, where he grows more humanlike, dressing in starched collars and fancy suits. Soon, he grows despondent and returns to the jungle to ponder whether he’s more man or beast. Anniversary edition, HarperCollins.
THE LION & THE MOUSE
The African Serengeti comes alive in Jerry Pinkney’s nearly wordless retelling of the beloved Aesop fable. The lion spares the mouse from becoming a meal. The mouse returns the deed by freeing the lion from a poacher’s trap. Appropriate for children 1 and up. Vivid illustrations in watercolor and colored pencil. Close-ups of the main players are juxtaposed by endpapers showing off vast landscapes. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
THE LION AND THE BIRD
A sweet look at friendship, for kids 4 and up, between a lion who finds an injured bird in his garden one autumn day. The bird is left behind by his flock and the lion nurses his damaged wing back to health, only to have him rejoin his flock the following year. Creator Marianne Dubuc makes use of wordless pages to portray the passage of time through the seasons, as the two friends share a meal and sit together by the fire of the lion’s cozy cottage. Enchanted Lion Books.
FACE TO FACE WITH LIONS
Part of National Geographic’s “Face to Face With Animals” series, this offering is full of detail and close-up photography to satisfy young buffs in classrooms or at home. The book covers diet, life expectancy, reproduction and how prides function. The authors, husband-and-wife team Dereck and Beverly Joubert, urge young readers to help save the vanishing lions of Africa. Intended for kids 7 and up. National Geographic Children’s Books.
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