My bookclub was discussing the depthness of good children’s books, so we decided to leave our comfort zone and try The Butterfly Lion.

It’s a very short book, around 180 pages, and indeed, we quickly jumped from one topic to another, from the constant removal of parents in children’s books (Mary Poppins, Narnia, Harry Potter), to the art of taming lions or the legality of burying people outside cemeteries in different countries.

The story is about Bertie, who grew up in an isolated farm in Africa. There he rescues an orphaned white lion cub, who becomes his best friend until Bertie turns eleven and is sent to school in England. The lion is sold to the owner of a French circus, who promises to take good care of it, but Bertie vows that they will meet again.

It’s a perfect book to discuss in a class of 7-12 year-old, and will enter my especial list of Recommendations For Boys Who Don’t Like Reading: there are lions, a circus, a War and vivid descriptions of exotic African landscapes. But what makes The Butterfly Lion stand out from other children’s book is the melancholy that seeps through.

There’s this bitter-sweet feel to the book that grabbed me immediately (à la Up), and made me prepare for an unhappy ending that never materializes… or does it? I don’t usually deal with kids at work or socially, so I wonder what they’d make of the book or of the big twist in the end. Do they (even if intuitively) feel the sadness and longing, or do they get caught in the adventure of it all?

The Butterfly Lion is wonderfully written and for the first time it made me curious to pick up Morpurgo’s other famous book, War Horse. I’ve heard it in audiobook, spotlessly narrated by Virginia McKenna and Michael Morpurgo himself.

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Other thoughts: Me, My Books and IBook Steps, Read 2 Review (yours?)

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