Published By: Katha / Katha World Library
Story and Illustrations: Beatrice Alemagna
He was so bored in his savannah that one day he set out in search of work, love, a future.
In a Sentence: The day we learn to be at ease with ourselves and be ourselves, we find our place and contentment in the world, no matter how cold, unforgiving or indifferent it may have seemed to us until then.
What is it About: A lion fromSavannah saunters intoParis in search of ‘love, work, a future’. Pretty much what you and I do it for too. This story is about his journey from being an apprehensive and unsure newcomer in the city to gradually earning his sense of belonging and the rightful place in the crowd. Do read here for more…
Form and language: Direct and easy sentences, as a third person narrative. Our lion opens his mouth only twice in this book – once with a happy ‘Grrr’ and the other majestic ‘Roaaaaar’!
What makes it snuggly: The adorable lion. He’s bored, he’s afraid, he’s baffled, he’s surprised. Then he’s unsure, he’s lonely, he’s homesick, he’s sad. And then he smiles…and gradually comes into his own!
What Stands Out: This book on Paris does not once ‘teach’ us about Paris. Indeed, the city is named just that once when the lion arrives there by metro. Yet, by the time you’ve reached the end, your child will know far more about Paris and its streets and people than an average 6th grader who’s been taught his social sciences lessons.
And yes, don’t miss the map ofParisthat the lion holds between his paws. Missed it? Go back to the book again!
Will be best enjoyed by: Kids and parents who’ve visited Paris before; kids and parents who would love to visit the city someday; kids who love lions in the forests; kids who love to see lions in the zoo; or as pets.
From snuggly to snugglier: With this book in hand, you will never run out of interesting things to do with your child. If new toParis, step one is to acquaint yourself with the city’s buildings. Step two, point these out to her. Step three, get her to read all the facial expressions on the people floating around the pages and wonder why it may be so. Step four, you and your child create your own stories around your city’s noticeable landmarks. Step five, play a game of I-Felt-Out-Of-Place-When…among yourselves. Oh yes, you’ll be surprised at how many instances your little ones can remember from their recent past.
Ha Ha! Quotient: 2
Touches the Heart: 5
Cuts Through the Clutter: 5
Visual Appeal: 4
Real-world dream-world balance: 5
Encore Quotient: 5
Thank God it’s not moral science: 5
Show, don’t tell: 4
Hey, this is a really important book!’: 5
Want to read more?
Text: As a fleeting passer-by, I perhaps missed to notice the contentment on the face of this majestic Belfort-lion that stretches itself lazily on a massive pedestal atDenfert-Rochereau Square inParis. But for writer and illustrator Beatrice Alemagna, the lion smiles a different smile. ‘I have asked myself why this lion is so loved by Parisians, and I think, it is because he seems so sure and really happy to be where he is,’ she writes. This picture book is her interpretation, deliciously basted in fantasy and imaginativeness, of how the lion got where he is has been since 1880.
This book can be read in layers, peeling off each layer when you feel your child is ready to dig into a deeper interpretation. A first reading of A Lion In Paris ends with the speculative story behind how the lion landed there on the pedestal. As adults, we lose our ability to wonder about such things but children do it all the time. Beatrice does too, and thank God for it. We have a great book as a result. But the story is much more than about just that. Each page teases out hidden insecurities within us, typically, in the context of moving and migrating: the apprehension at a small-town / big-city transition; the way we perceive ourselves (based on where we are coming from) vis-à-vis how the new place sees (or ignores) us; the way we expect a certain set of responses from people (again, based on our past experiences in an earlier milieu) and our surprise when we don’t get them; our trying too hard to get where we think we want to get; the initial loneliness and homesickness; the wonder and amazement at new experiences; the first few hints of acceptance in the alien place; bumping into like-minded people and beginning to make friends; finding your own comfort zone by regaining your confidence; and finally, striding on to reclaim your place in the sun. It’s amazing how a picture book can deal with so many issues without making like sound like issues.
Wondering why I refuse to shut up when no one’s paying me for the word-count. Can’t help it. I simply love this book.
Visuals: Apart from the characteristic Parisian architectural backdrop, Beatrice’s Parisian montage blends little-little elements from the city’s street-side landscape (nuns in black habits to girls in work jackets, the old metro and the more recent escalator at Louvre, the newspapers, baguette, intellectuals sipping coffee at Café de Flore) to create a Paris where the years and decades collapse into the now. For a child getting introduced toParis for the first time, the pages could reflect the city as it is today just as well as it was a century ago. The colours on the pages are muted, delicate and chic, a befitting tribute to the city. Through their facial expressions, Beatrice depicts the way the people’s attitude towards our hero, the lion, changes as the story progresses – from a snooty, nose-up indifference when he arrives in Paris to the welcoming smiles from every possible window in the frame when he has finally learnt to be at ease with himself.
Reminds me of this other picture book that’s my daughter’s favourite – Madeline In Paris. A different theme and storyline, of course, but the backdrop is peppered with sights and sounds of the city oh-so subtly that it makes you ache for more.