Lion Lessons

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Lion Lessons Book Poster Image
Boy learns to roar and pounce in funny lessons from a lion.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some information about lions and their behavior: how they move, what they eat, how they stalk prey, and what their prey is (including antelope, muskrats, sloths). Lots of lettered signage, posters, menus, diplomas, and dials in the art encourage kids to read beyond the printed text. Concept and definition of "diploma." Reinforces counting, as the lessons are in "7 Easy Steps" laid out in the course of the story.

Positive Messages

If you want to study and learn something, you might find lessons to help you. It's fun to study animals and their behavior. If at first you don't succeed, keep trying and you will see progress.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boy has a goal -- earning a "Lion Diploma" -- and he works until he achieves it. He follows his interests, finding a place that offers the lessons he's interested in, apprenticing himself to an expert, listening to instruction, and trying his best to follow it. Though at first he's not very good at what he tries, he persists and improves with practice.

Violence & Scariness

When the boy's instructed to pounce on a lady and protests, "But I'll scare her to death," the lion replies, "Uh, that's the idea." When the instruction is "Choosing What to Eat," a large menu displays pictures of animals that serve as prey for lions, including antelope, muskrats, sloths, and so on.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lion Lessons is a funny foray into the wacky world of specialty lessons, where a boy who wants to earn a "Lion Diploma" enrolls in a course taught by an actual lion and learns lion behavior in "7 Easy Steps." Author-illustrator Jon Agee (It's Only Stanley) is a master of picture book humor and absurd, silly fun, and the book can inspire readers themselves to pounce like a lion, bare their claws, and roar. Embedded in the humor is some actual information about lion behavior, and though the fun far outweighs the fear, parents might be aware that there's mention of stalking other animals as prey and a comment, lightly delivered, that when you pounce on prey you might scare it to death, but "that's the idea."

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What's the story?

In LION LESSONS, a boy decides to earn a "Lion Diploma" and so goes in search of lion lessons. He enrolls in a seven-step course taught by an actual lion, suits up, and tries various lion behaviors, including lion stances, roaring, picking prey, prowling, sprinting, and pouncing. Finally, he's instructed to look out for his friends, which in this case includes a small house cat. At last able to fully channel his inner lion, he roars, sprints, and pounces, saving the cat from a menacing dog. This earns him not only his lion diploma but also the undying affection of all the cats in the neighborhood.

Is it any good?

This fun romp examines what it might be like for a young boy to apprentice himself to an actual lion in order to mimic and master ferocious lion behavior. In the opening pages, the boy walks past shop windows advertising karate, Spanish, violin, yoga, and knitting lessons, which will feel both familiar and amusing to contemporary kids enrolled in a host of extracurricular classes. There's some actual information about lion behavior that goes down easily in the offbeat format, and lots of signs and posters in the print-rich art can help inspire kids to learn to read.

Author-illustrator Jon Agee is a pro, seasoned and silly, and this book is perfect for those who like their animal information delivered with a demented dash of fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about lions and their behavior. What do lions in the book do? How does that behavior help them in the wild?

  • How are lions similar to domestic house cats? How are they different?

  • How is Lion Lessons funny as well as informational? What funny things can you find in the art?

Book details

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