About the Holiday
The organization Big Cat Rescue established today’s holiday to bring awareness to the declining lion population. Habitat depletion, climate change, poaching, and other dangers have taken their toll on these majestic animals, and they are now on the endangered list. Global organizations aim to reverse the trend through education, protection, and governmental policy.
By Jon Agee
Passing signs for yoga lessons, violin lessons, Spanish classes, knitting classes, karate classes tutoring, a little boy turns into a shop advertising Lion Lessons in 7 Easy Steps. A closet to the right of a poster depicting “Great Lions in History” contains the appropriate garb—lion costumes. The boy steps into the body and attaches the mane. “It’s not easy getting your Lion Diploma,” the boy tells readers. “I know. I took lessons.”
His instructor, a lion himself, reveals that there are seven steps to becoming a lion. But first comes stretching. Converted yoga poses—“the Upward Lion, the Downward Lion, the Upside-Down Lion, the Rolling Lion, and the Flying Lion”—prepare them for the class to come. And, oh yes, they must shake their manes.
Step One to becoming a lion is “Looking Fierce.” The instructor demonstrates how to do it, complete with bared claws, gnashing teeth, and glinting fangs. The boy attempts these poses, but his instructor isn’t impressed. Step Two is “Roaring.” The boy steps up to the microphone and gives it his loudest growl. The sound barely registers on the noise meter.
Step Three is “Choosing What to Eat.” The instructor folds out the menu, with its wide choice of meats: “free-range muskrat, wombats, organic iguana, grass-fed gnu, all-you-can-eat antelope, sloth, prairie-raised anteater, and wild warthog.” Where’s the spaghetti? the boy wonders, only to learn that lions don’t eat spaghetti. Next up is Step Four: “Prowling Around.” Practice takes place in the forest where the boy learns to hide in the bushes and behind trees without letting his tail show.
Step Five is “Sprinting” and requires meeting the instructor at a faraway tree in five minutes; it took the boy one hour. After Sprinting comes “Pouncing.” The lion maneuvers the boy behind a woman talking on her phone and says, “‘It’s simple. You get a running start and then you jump on that lady.’” The boy protests that he will scare her to death. “‘Uh,’” says the lion, “‘that’s the idea.’” So the boy gets a running start and leaps—right into the lady’s arms. “‘What a cute little kitty-cat!’” she says.
Step seven is “Looking Out for Your Friends.” The boy peers through the telescope and sees a kitten: friend. The dog chasing the kitten: not a friend. The boy lets out a “ferocious roar.” He bares his claws, gnashes his teeth, paws the ground, shakes his mane and sprints across the field. When he’s within striking distance, he pounces…and saves the kitten! “‘Bravo!!’” congratulates the lion.
And that is how the little boy earned his diploma and became a hero to all the neighborhood cats in the bargain!
What kid wouldn’t like to be a lion—if even for a day? To be king of the classroom, or king of the playground, or even king of the house would be awesome. Jon Agee taps into that childhood (and adulthood?) mind set with his story of the little boy who channels his inner big cat to save a little cat from the neighborhood bully dog. Agee’s droll allusions to other popular classes enhances the humor for both kid and adult readers. Instead of yoga pants or a karate gi, the boy dons a lion uniform and proceeds on to perform lion-inspired exercises. While seemingly simple give-and-take, the dialogue between the two characters contains more dry wit that will have kids agreeing with their picture book counterpart and giggling at his predicament.
The over-sized pages and full-bleed colorful spreads allow for king-sized laughs. This is one lion instructor who takes his job seriously no matter how unsavory the menu or pouncing practice may seem to humans. Jon Agee never fails to entertain, and Lion Lessons continues the fun.
Ages 4 – 8
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0803739086
To learn more about Jon Agee and his books and view a gallery of his illustrations, visit his website!
World Lion Day Activity
Wooden Spoon Lion Puppet
Unleash your inner lion! With this craft you can make a ROARingly cute lion puppet!
- Wooden mixing spoon
- Yellow Fleece
- Brown felt
- Colorful Fleece or felt
- Fabric glue
- Light brown marker
- Dark brown marker
- Hot glue gun or super glue
- To make the lion’s face
- Draw a nose, mouth, and eyes on the front/bowl of the spoon
To make the mane
- Measure the rim of the spoon from one side of the handle to the other
- Cut a strip of yellow fleece as long as rim measurement and 4 inches wide
- Fold the piece of fleece in half long-ways
- Glue the open edges of the fleece together
- Along the folded side cut a fringe, leaving the loops intact
To make the ears
- Cut round ears from the brown felt
To assemble the lion
- Glue the ears to the back of the spoon
- Glue the mane to the back of the spoon
To make the bow
- Cut a 3-inch x 1 ½-inch piece of colorful fleece or felt
- Cut a long thin strip of fleece or felt
- Pinch the bow in the middle and tie with the longer piece of cloth. Trim as necessary
- Glue the bow to the handle
To make the tail
- Cut three thin 4-inch-long strips of yellow fleece
- With fabric glue, glue the tops of the strips together
- Braid the strips
- At the bottom, glue the strips together, leaving the ends free
- Fold the top of the tail and push it into the hole in the handle of the spoon