CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 29. . . .March 28, 2014
The Lion and the Bird is another quirky picturebook by Montreal author-illustrator Marianne Dubuc. Her books, originally published in French by a variety of houses, have a strong European sensibility, and she has, in fact, been nominated for the German Youth Literature Award.
The story centres around a friendly-looking lion (walking upright and wearing a pair of denim overalls throughout) who, working in his garden one autumn day, finds an injured bird. Even with its broken wing splinted, Bird is unable to fly and join its migrating fellows, and so Lion invites it to stay for the winter.
What follows are cozy scenes of domestic life with a fire, a rocking chair and comfy beds (Bird’s is Lion’s fuzzy slipper) in evidence. When an outing to go tobogganing is planned, Lion tucks Bird into a toque which he has modified with a ‘porthole’. “‘The snow is cold and icy, but you’re snug and warm,’ says Lion.”
And so “They spend the winter together, enjoying each day.” Even a blizzard cannot spoil the idyll, but when spring comes, Bird obviously wants to link up with the returning flock. The sorrow of having to say goodbye is expressed when Lion sees the others birds flying across the sky, looks at his friend and says simply, “I know.”
Lion passes a solitary summer once again tending his garden and looking wistfully at the sky. Who could ask for a more satisfying ending than to see Bird come back in the fall to spend another winter with Lion in his tiny domed house?
Dubuc’s quiet pencil drawings in blues and browns capture the mood of the story perfectly. The text is minimal, some spreads having no text at all, which also suits the tone.
The Lion and the Bird is all that is good in a story for young children, with charity that grows into friendship, the pain of parting being soothed by reunion, and the feeling of quiet satisfaction in a simple life. I loved it! A book for primary collections in school and public libraries.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.