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Brilliant premise -- so-so execution.

What parents need to know


Charlie's parents are kidnapped, bound, and gagged. The lions attack and injure Rafi. The threat of violence hangs over Charlie's escape.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A drunken police officer. Charlie sneaks the tranquilizers meant for the captive lions into the liontamer's food and drink.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book hints at issues including corrupt drug companies and governments, animal treatment and captivity, and the environment. There also is a very positive portrayal of several interracial families.

What's the story?

In a slightly future world where pollution and asthma are rampant and cars are banned, Charlie's scientist parents are kidnapped. Pursued by their thuggish kidnapper, Rafi, and unwittingly carrying the formula for which they were taken, Charlie sets out to rescue them. Though his chances seem remote, he has one thing working in his favor: he can talk with cats, and cats all over the world, who know more about his parents than he does, are motivated to help him out.

He hooks up with a floating circus headed to France, where the cats say his parents have been taken, and meets a family of lions longing for escape. While working as the liontamer's helper he plots a way to arrange the lions' return to Africa while following his parents, who are now headed to Venice. But Rafi is closing in.

Is it any good?


It's a brilliant premise that should have worked. You have a boy who can talk to cats (and lions!), a floating circus and later the Orient Express for settings, a child out to rescue both lions and his parents, a touch of fantasy, and an adventure spanning the width of Europe. It does eventually start to work, but only about three-quarters of the way through.

The whole thing has the pacing of a fly in honey -- lots of buzzing, but not getting much of anywhere. It might have worked if Charlie had some personality or voice or humor, but he's pretty much a cipher -- Our Hero Who Speaks to Cats. Those children who make it to the end will be rewarded by a very exciting last section and a cliffhanger ending, and will want the sequel immediately. But many kids won't get that far.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the future imagined in this series. How is it similar to and different from the world today? Do you think it's a pessimistic or optimistic view of the future? Does it seem plausible, given the situation of the world today?

Book details

Author:Zizou Corder
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dial Books
Publication date:February 6, 2005
Number of pages:273

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Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 12 years old June 10, 2010

this book i think is for anyone who just needs to read a good book or hear a bedtime story

i think this book is very intresting. These authors know how to tell a great story. I know i couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel to this book lionboy-the chase! These two girls know how to mix adventure, action, mystery, and plain old fun in one. This is a great book for any age...from bedtime story to going out on the porch and reading to yourself in a rocking chair. I give this book two thumbs up. They can keep you on the edge of your seat or just give you a good laugh when you need it.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written byMountainMom February 8, 2009

The AudioCD Version: A fantastic way for the whole family to enjoy car rides

Our family just finished listening to the audio CD on car rides (to/from school, lessons, etc). Our 9 year old thoroughly enjoyed it, as have my husband and I. Our 7 year old fell asleep a couple of times - some of the descriptive paragraphs drag a bit. I was worried it would be too adult for the kids, but was mostly relieved. There were two references to drunkenness (once as a part of the circus act & once a police officer was drunk). The premise in general carries a lingering threat of violence (Charlie's parents are kidnapped and there is a bad man that is chasing Charlie...and, of course, lions are wild animals), but that threat never comes to anything that caused a problem or concern. Charlie and many of the people he interacts with are smart and clever. Fascinating & entertaining information about circus life and the futuristic state of the world, with most beings (cats & humans) that Charlie encounters being supportive and good. All in all, a great tale. We can't wait to listen to the sequel.