Willoughby and the Lion

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Willoughby and the Lion Book Poster Image
Glossy fantasy about an enchanted lion and a lonely boy.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The overall message is about the importance of friendship, even one between a boy and an enchanted lion.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is the first in a proposed series of Willoughby books. Though it's suggested for kids 4-7, it's really geared more toward the older kids in this age range.

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What's the story?

Sad and lonely, Willoughby discovers an enchanted lion on a rock in his backyard, a lion who can grant him 10 wishes. And to top it off, if Willoughby wishes for "the most wonderful thing of all," the lion can be released from whatever magic is holding him on the rock. Willoughby makes one big wish after another until, finally, on number 10 he realizes that, more than a palace, roller coaster, and piles of cakes and cookies, one thing in the world would make him happy ... and he whispers his last wish into the lion's ear.

Is it any good?

The story of a boy who finds an enchanted lion in his backyard, especially one who can grant all sorts of fantastic wishes, should captivate the imagination of almost any kid. And most will understand how it feels to be lonely and in need of a friend. Younger readers, though, may not get the overall message unless someone older talks them through it.

Also, all gold and glossy, the rather sophisticated illustrations in this book will not appeal to everyone. They are definitely not the bold, primary colors or expressive watercolors of most kids' books. However, the story is a tender one, and the lesson is as valuable as the gold medallion on the cover, the gold that flashes through the pages, and the gold coin that is cleverly tucked away inside the back cover.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the reasons that Willoughby felt so sad and lonely, and about the different wishes he made. Do you know how it feels to move to a new house or a new school? What kinds of wishes would make you happier? What did you think when Willoughby wished for a roller coaster or the fastest shoes in the world? What did the lion need, and what was the deal he made with Willoughby? What turned out to be the most wonderful thing of all?

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