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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lion Lessons, by Jon Agee. Dial, Penguin. 2016. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Step Two was Roaring.
"It's simple," said the lion.
"Take a deep breath and
roar as loud as you can into
the microphone."

I took a deep breath and
roared as loud as I could.

"Needs work," said the

As everyone heads back to school, many teachers have lessons in mind. How they teach them, and how students learn, can be two different things. In a book that pairs a stern and demanding professional lion with an eager-to-learn-the-ropes young boy, Jon Agee shows his audience how training can be problematic.

Ahead of the title page, Mr. Agee demonstrates his humorous take on the 'lessons' that consume us. As the young boy casually strolls the street, he is bombarded by signs for new learning: baking, karate, learn the violin, tutor, Spanish, knitting, yoga, classes for all ages. What to choose in our lesson-obsessed world???

The boy is intrigued by the sign on one shop's door and heads inside to learn what it professes to teach - lessons in being a lion. First, he dons a tawny suit. Then, looking lionish, he meets the very professional, and obviously qualified, instructor meant to take him through the seven steps of training. Before the real lessons begin, they must 'stretch'. Each of the steps is then presented in fearsome lion stance. The student leaves something to be desired each step along the way. He is not much accomplished at Looking Fierce, Roaring, Choosing What to Eat, Prowling Around, Sprinting, Pouncing. It doesn't look good for fulfilling the obligations of his training until the final lesson - Looking Out for Your Friends. Only then does he show his true potential and assure success, and a diploma.

As is his custom, Jon Agee fills the book's pages with amusing details, expressive characters, and wry humor.  I love the way he changes perspective, allowing his young readers the opportunity to focus on the many elements of this lively exchange between teacher and student. It is destined to be a story time favorite, and I can't wait to share it in a classroom.  

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