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*Christian the Lion* by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall- young readers fantasy book review
Christian the Lion
by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall
Ages 7-12 128 pages Delacorte March 2009 Hardcover    

Search for ďChristian the LionĒ on YouTube, and youíll see one of the best reunions every captured on film. I donít know who is happier in the video, the two men or the lion.

One year had passed since John and Ace had seen Christian. Even though they had raised him, they were told he might not recognize them. Christian had a pride of his own now and had been living as a wild lion in Africa, but as soon as Christian saw the two men, it was like time had never passed. Christian ran to them and greeted them with the same excited hugs and head rubs he always had.

This true story was adapted into a book for children by Ruth Knowles. The book includes sixteen pages of photographs, many of which are in color. Starting with a picture of Christianís parents, Butch and Mary, and ending with a picture of John and Ace spending their last day with Christian, the photographs show Christian exploring his first home in London, playing outside in the garden, and moving to his new home in Africa. Readers watch Christian move from a life in a small flat to life out in the wild. He grows in size, but he still likes to be in the company of John and Ace.

When John and Ace first saw Christian, he was for sale and inside a small cage in Harrods department store. They bought him and took him home to their flat in London, but Christianís full rescue story could not be told without mentioning lion expert George Adamson, a man who lived and worked with lions. He helped Christian become one of the lions that would be reintroduced to the wild in Kenya.

Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of a movie that was based on George and his wifeís life, also played an important role in Christianís life. They provided Christian with a temporary home in the country before he moved to Africa. Country life was good to Christian. John and Ace could see he was eating more and becoming bigger. John and Ace would miss Christian when they took him to Africa. They rescued him in 1969 from a small cage and provided him with a home, but as he grew bigger, they knew he needed more than what they could give him.

The stories and memories incorporated into this story are fascinating. Christian was litter-trained in John and Aceís basement flat, but he also knew a litter box trick that would signal to John and Ace he wanted outside. He loved to play with a football when he was in the garden, but as he grew bigger, he played with a mattress. Having been born in a zoo, Christian was calm around people, but John and Ace did see his wild side twice. Both instances are described in this, book are the time Christian was too scared to walk, the days he had sad eyes, and the time he spent fifteen hours in a crate to travel to Africa.

The trip was rough on him, but once in Africa, it became apparent Christian would be okay. He instinctively knew how to get a thorn out of his paw and how to become accepted by other lions. The one thing readers will never forget about this story is that Christian knew how to make two men feel grateful they took the time to help an animal in need.

This book ends with information and facts about Christian and other African animals, including black rhinos and leopards. For those who want to become involved, the author provides information about the wildlife preservation trust that helped Christian.

John Rendall continues to be involved with the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust. When heís not in London (where he is a member of the Royal Geographical Society), heís in Sydney or traveling to Africa to help with other conservation projects.

Ace (Anthony) Bourke now lives with two much smaller cats. An art curator and colonial art specialist, he hopes to become involved again in conservation and wildlife projects. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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