A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will pick up lots of inside knowledge on the craft and skill of bicycle racing, as well as details about martial arts and Chinese cosmology. They'll also get a fast-paced travelogue through San Francisco's Chinatown and its surroundings.
Friendship, loyalty, teamwork, the determination to do the right thing, and help from unexpected quarters all help the good guys prevail.
Positive Role Models
While they're often at odds with one another, the four teens on the team -- Ryan, Phoenix, Jake and Hú Dié -- all bring individual strengths, sometimes surprising ones, to their collective effort. Ryan, who's telling this story, is struggling with the aftermath of his uncle's doping efforts, working on his skills and his friendships. Like his namesake the lion, he's powerful, fearless and protective of his loved ones. Girls who don't like gender stereotypes will get a big kick out of bicycle-welding, street-smart Hú Dié, whose skills and attitude are essential to the team.
Violence & Scariness
Violence is often cartoonish, as in martial arts movies, but there's lots of it. The teens see a villain kill a man with just the touch of his grotesquely deformed hand using "Poison Hand Kung Fu"; a vengeful character from Book 1 shoots another man to death; another character meets a violent end at the hands of a man whose cousin he's killed. Bad guys kidnap the teens and other characters, and force some of them to consume drugs. There's both gunplay and hand-to-hand combat.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Occasional mild flirting between Hú Dié and her male teammates, and with other guys in a bicycle race. Ryan hints that he's attracted to her.
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Products & Purchases
Occasional mention of commercial products, e.g. the Ford Ranger that belongs to Phoenix's grandfather. Many references to characters and events in the Five Ancestors series implicitly promote the author's other books.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Performance-enhancing drugs, in this case the mythical dragon bone, are essential to the story, as evildoers seek dragon bone while Ryan copes with withdrawal. Between the violence and the side effects, drugs don't seem like an attractive option.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lion is the second book of popular author Jeff Stone's series that brings his 17th century Five Ancestors characters and conflicts into today's world. It offers a tasty mix of bike racing, ancient Chinese mythology, kung fu, and teen life that will prove irresistible even to reluctant readers. Picking up where the first volume, Phoenix, left off, it's told from the point of view of Ryan Vanderhausen, who's dealing with the aftermath of his evil uncle's efforts in Book 1 to drug him into athletic perfection with a mysterious ancient substance called dragon bone. With the aid of Phoenix's grandfather, one of the centuries-old Five Ancestors, Ryan's trying to eliminate the substance from his system. The suspenseful page-turner has many positive messages about friendship, loyalty, creative thinking, doing the right thing, and the unexpected importance of everyone's talents. Violence, while mostly cartoonish, is often vivid: The kids witness or experience some violence and hear about lots more, including murders by substance-induced heart attacks, hand-to-hand combat, and gunfire; plus kidnappings, blackmail, and a few bicycle crashes.
Is It Any Good?
Author Jeff Stone has achieved much success with his exciting, page-turning epics that draw even reluctant readers into the adventure, and LION follows in that tradition. The characters are appealing, with distinct personalities that get a good chance to develop further in this installment -- as does the creative mix of martial arts, mythology, and bicycle racing.
Parents might want to check whether the book's plentiful, mostly cartoonish violence is too much for their particular kid, but in general, Lion's a well-crafted, compelling tale with many positive lessons about friendship, teamwork, perseverance, and trying to do the right thing.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.