We Are Lions!

Groundwood. Mar. 2023. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781773067018.
Gr 1-4–Two young biracial boys, one with black hair, one with brown, both with tan skin, roar in Lucander’s eccentric illustrations, hunting gazelles and wildebeests on the savanna in a playful but committed nod to imagination. Dad Wildebeest and Mom Gazelle (he is Asian, she cues white) chill out nearby in an ordinary domestic non-savanna setting, and the boys take a break. Narrated by the younger boy, the story advances and the older boy takes ill, and has to see a doctor. Strictly from a preschooler’s frustrated point of view as his fellow lion goes to the hospital and is no longer available to play, the boy tells of one last chase through the hospital, terrorizing all the other patients with their game, and that’s when it feels as if the illustrations take over. The brother, losing his hair, is a bedridden shadow hooked up to tubes; the parents are quaking messes with the inevitability of likely terminal illness of their child. This shattering picture book is practical and elevating in equal measure—“We are lions,” the older boy whispers at the last, a small piece of hope that readers certainly need. Unsparing as the book is, educators will want to weave it into units on compassion and SEL, or where a classmate has gone missing.
VERDICT A book to be shared rather than handed over, and be ready for discussion. It’s as unflinching as a child’s questions, and brutally compelling.

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