cover image Time of the Lion

Time of the Lion

Caroline Pitcher. Beyond Words Publishing, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-885223-83-8

Set in the African savannah, this slightly mystical tale revolves around a boy's secret friendship with a lion and its family. When traders come to Joseph's village asking for lion cubs, the boy misses the clues in his father's response and misinterprets subsequent behavior: ""My father has betrayed the cubs!"" In fact, the wise father has hidden the cubs in large pots behind the market. The ""time of the lion"" is never explicitly defined, but implies an idyllic stretch of childhood, when the bond between the human and the wild is strongest. Pitcher's prose is redolent with apt analogies and lyrical images. However, poetic indulgences often trip over one another: ""the stars glittered like the eyes of lions, watching [Joseph] steal across the tawny land""; ""his mighty mane shook, gold dust caught in moonshine."" Too, the metaphorical phrase ""time of the lion,"" which reappears in a motto at the end, seems likelier to resonate with adults than with children. Morris (previously paired with the author for The Snow Whales) tempers the excesses with softly defined watercolors in a tastefully luxurious palette ranging from earthy sunlit tones to majestic evening blues. Perspectives are flattened and characters (especially the lion) elongated, resulting in stylized compositions that complement the otherworldly mood of the text. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)