cover image Little Lions

Little Lions

Jim Arnosky. Putnam Publishing Group, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22944-2

Stretching the moments like a sunny spring day, this picture book takes a lingering look at a pair of four-week-old lion cubs while they are completely dependent upon their mother. This wink of time expands within the spare text's gentle pace and the artwork's circumscribed focus on the lion family. With their mother serving as both food source and playground, the cubs nurse, nuzzle into her fur, then ""climb/ mother's hilly hips,/ and tumble down her tail."" In a continuously golden light, Arnosky's (Rabbits and Raindrops) illustrations reveal the secure but stimulating world of the mountain lion mother. While butterflies, chickadees and hawks take to the air just off the mountain ledge, the cubs venture to its edge. As one nears a plummeting doom, his mother grabs his tail between her teeth and yanks him back to safety. Within this cozy home base, Arnosky manages visual interest through contrast: a sleepy mother with her ever-active brood, the cubs' spotted fur against their mother's uniform color, the flying creatures next to the stone-bound lions. However, youngsters will be drawn most of all to the delightfully tactile kittens with tiny teeth and harmless claws and will likely identify with their playful curiosity. Ages 2-6. (Mar.)