FIERCE THE LION
by Evaline Ness/ published 1980 by Holiday House
Ms. Ness has such a unique illustration style, you either love it or hate it. Most of her books are drawn in two-tone ink and wash, and the eyes of her characters are often squinty and lost in shadow giving them a maudlin appearance even when they are smiling. Sometimes I love her and sometimes I hate her, but in this instance, the later is the case. The story of a small circus girl, Isobel, and her pet lion cub, Fierce, they can literally communicate with each other which is awesome. My analytical son sometimes spoils the fun with comments like "lions can't talk", but eventually he settles into the fantasy and plays along.
So, when the lion grows too large to snuggle and becomes cage-bound, he lapses into depression and only Isobel can help...
Fierce walked around his cage a couple of times. Then he lay down and stared into the distance. "I would just love to give little tots rides on my back," he said, "but stupid llamas and adorable ponies are given first choice, always."
Isobel tickled Fierce under his chin. She said, "Hmmmm. Maybe that's right. Maybe not. See you tomorrow."
But Isobel didn't come back the next day. Nor the next. Fierce was worried. Isobel had never broken a promise. He paced around his cage and asked everyone who went by where Isobel was, but no one answered because they didn't know what he was saying. They thought he was just roaring. Which he was.
Eventually, Isobel saves the day, and Fierce becomes the first (and ONLY I imagine) lion to give rides to school children at the zoo. Man, oh, man would that be cool. I still have fond memories of riding a camel at Disney World when I was little (some places still do that), but a riding a lion as a kid, now that would be something.
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