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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Lion Who Stole My Arm, written by Nicola Davies, with illustrations by Annabel Wright. Candlewick, Random House. 2014. $17.00 ages 8 and up

"Of course they were brave boys and not afraid of the dangers of nighttime in the bush: the hippos grazing on the bank that will bite you in two if you disturb their supper; the leopards and lions stalking you, quieter than breath; the hyenas that will crack your bones; the crocodiles that will drag you under the water. No, what worried the boys much more was how angry their mothers would be if they were late getting back."

As he checks his snares for something to appease his mother, Pedru has no idea that carefree days in his small African village will soon change dramatically. At one of the snares, he is attacked by a lion. He manages to drive it away; not before the lion takes his arm.

As he begins to adjust to his new reality, he is overcome by a wide range of feelings. Sadness, fear, frustration and anger become part of his daily struggle to deal with the loss. He must learn to do so many things all over again. He is fearful of his surroundings, as he had not been previous to the attack. He is angry with the lion and determined to seek revenge on it should they ever meet again.

His father assures Pedru that his hunting skills remain strong, just as his father's are. When a lion enters the village, Pedru joins the hunt and helps down the lion. He returns a tracking device to a group of nearby scientists, who then help him begin to understand lions and their actions. Asked to assist the scientists, Pedru and his father find purposeful work and a new direction.

Nicola Davies does a commendable job (as she always does with her award-winning writing) of bringing the African landscape to life through her thoughtful, articulate writing and research. Annabel Wright's detailed illustrations allow readers to note the people, the wildlife and the village life of East Africa. In an afterword readers are encouraged to learn more about the conservation of lions and the projects that have been set up to protect them. It takes a tremendous amount of support and knowledge to help everyone involved understand both sides of the story. Her storytelling acumen gives readers a way of attaching this new knowledge to a young boy who is not unlike those who will read this first book in a new series.

I happily await the publication of the ones yet to come.

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