I Am Lion! Hear Me Roar! Lion Lessons by Jon Agee
IT'S NOT EASY GETTING YOUR LION DIPLOMA
Our boy strolls down what might be called "Self-Improvement Street," crammed with store-front schools for knitting, yoga, Spanish, and karate lessons. But our lad is longing for lion lessons, and when he finds the place offering a seven-step program to lionhood, he leaps inside in a trice and is soon sorting through the rack of lion suits for one his size.
His teacher looks to be a pro, a tawny lion with real credentials, certificates from the Big Cat Society and Harvard School of Claw. The Lion doesn't look impressed with his new novice, but he starts him off with some stretching exercises--downward lion, upside-down lion, and mane-shaking.
And then the real lessons begin, with Step #1, Looking Fierce, which involves a lot of fang gnashing and claw baring. The kid is a bit short in the claw and fang departments, and then it's on to Roaring ("weak"), and then Frightening Poses ("needs improvement").
Next is Choosing What You Eat. The boy looks at the menu--wombat, free-range muskrat, organic iguanas, and today's special, all-you-can-eat antelope. The boy politely inquires about the possibility of an a la carte serving of spaghetti.
"WE DON'T EAT SPAGHETTI," GROWLS THE LION.
The next step is Prowling, which sounds simple enough. The boy hides himself in the middle of a bush.
Lion remarks critically that the boy's tail is hanging out of the bush. The boy scoots behind a tree.
"I CAN STILL SEE YOUR TAIL."
But the next lesson, Sprinting, turns out to be the least successful. It takes the boy an hour to make the sprint to the goalpost tree.
"YOU NEED TO HIT THE GYM," SAYS THE LION.
The boy's scores are not too promising, and he's beginning to worry that he's going to be a washout. He approaches the final trial--Looking Out For Your Friends--with trepidation. But when our little apprentice notices a big dog chasing a tiny kitten, his latent lion heart takes over. He roars, brandishes his claws, shakes his mane, and sprints into action. And then, he pounces with aplomb!
It's a bravo finish, in Jon Agee's just-published Lion Lessons (Dial Books, 2016), with our lad taking his lion diploma after all. The noted author-illustrator Agee knows how to craft a fine picture book, with terse but witty text that lets the illustrations tell the parts of the story that pictures tell best, with sight gags aplenty on each page. Agee's strong blackline illustrations are set off, center page, by white backgrounds that spotlight the humor of Lion and student's body language and facial expressions just right. "A roaring good selection for storytime or one-on-one sharing," says School Library Journal in their starred review.