STARRED REVIEW
July 2018

A particularly cuddly predator

By Ed Vere
Review by

Author-illustrator Ed Vere would like readers to know that there’s more than one way to be a boy, a lesson delivered via the story of Leonard the lion.

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Author-illustrator Ed Vere would like readers to know that there’s more than one way to be a boy, a lesson delivered via the story of Leonard the lion. A gentle, introspective soul, Leonard likes to spend time daydreaming, thinking, playing with words and humming. He especially loves it when his wordplay leads to poetry, and he’s thrilled when he makes a new friend in Marianne, a “poetic duck.” But when other, more aggressive lions discover the two have hit it off, they tell Leonard there’s only one way for a lion to be: fierce. Shouldn’t he be chomping ducks? Leonard is left feeling discouraged, but together, Leonard and Marianne collaborate on a poem about the value of thinking for oneself. They bravely recite their verses to the lions—with Marianne clutching Leonard’s leg in fear the whole time.

Vere’s palette is dominated by deep honey, rose and mustard hues, and he keeps the focus on the characters with outlines in thick, wide brushstrokes and simple backgrounds. How to Be a Lion may be a message-driven picture book, but it’s a welcome message: There’s an alternative to the tough-guy approach to masculinity. Leonard is sensitive and thoughtful, and as he tells the other lions, “Let nobody say / just one way is true.” Vere’s story is likely to linger in the minds of children.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

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How to Be a Lion

How to Be a Lion

By Ed Vere
Doubleday
ISBN 9780525578055

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