When I recently reviewed Renato and the Lion, I started thinking about other picture books featuring lions who came to life. Surprisingly, there are a few of them. Perhaps there’s some truth to these stories after all!
Renato and the Lion
Author & Illustrator: Barbara DiLorenzo
Publisher/Date: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group/2017
Themes: lion sculpture, war, art, national treasures, refugee, imagination, intergenerational story
Short Synopsis (from the publisher’s website):
The touching, magical story of a boy in a war-torn country and the stone lion that rescues him.
Renato loves his home in Florence, Italy. He loves playing with his friends in the Piazza della Signoria. He loves walking home by the beautiful buildings and fountains with his father in the evenings. And he especially loves the stone lion who seems to smile at him from a pedestal in the piazza. The lion makes him feel safe.
But one day his father tells him that their family must leave. Their country is at war, and they will be safer in America. Renato can only think of his lion. Who will keep him safe?
With luminous watercolor paintings, Barbara DiLorenzo captures the beauty of Florence in this heartwarming and ultimately magical picture book.
Read my review.
The Stone Lion
Author: Margaret Wild
Illustrator: Ritva Voutila
Publisher/Date: Little Hare Books, an imprint of Hardie Grant Egmont/2014
Themes: lion sculpture, homelessness, imagination, empathy
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Sometimes statues are granted a chance to become warm, breathing creatures. The stone lion has only one dream – to run, pounce and leap in the park across from where he sits. But one snowy night, when a baby is abandoned at his paws, he is compelled to think differently.
Read a review at Gathering Books.
I paired these books because both deal with difficult subjects and include a lion sculpture that comes alive. In Renato and the Lion, Renato’s beloved marble lion transports him through occupied Florence, Italy, during World War II, as Renato and his father try to protect treasured art from the Nazis and war. Told from the perspective of the lion, The Stone Lion recounts how a lion sculpture learns to feel and empathize with two homeless children and uses its one opportunity to come alive to save them. In both books, I think, the magic of sculptures coming alive softens the difficult subject matter and makes it more accessible to children.
Looking for similar reads?
See The Night Library by David Zeltser/Raul Colón (Random House/2019) and Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude by Josh Funk/Stevie Lewis (Henry Holt & Co./2018).