Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein

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Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Brought to life from over fifty years ago is a really lively and fun story, that will bring a big smile to either the adult enacting it or the young reader smart enough to cope with its small print.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 112 Date: November 2015
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781782690825

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Meet the finest shooter in the world. No, not one of those hunters, who go to Africa and kill off all the wonderful wildlife there, but Lafcadio. He's a lion, and his real name might have been something more like Ruggrrg or Grummfgff, but one day when a hunter was about to shoot at him (with an unloaded rifle), he ate the hunter and picked the gun up to try out – then carried on shooting until he was the world's best, standing on his head or with paws tied behind his back. His new life gives him a new name, but is that really what he would have wanted as a young lion cub?

This was a quite charming, funny and most exuberant read. If you're one of those adults still picking books to read out to children, and find it awkward to give it the oomph and life you need, then try this – it might be a long haul for some, at fifty minutes' reading aloud time, but there are few voices needed, and the vim is right there on the page, from the different larger-than-life characters, to the dynamic changes in page-turning pace provided by the author's illustrations, and the very energetic plot. You don't have to read it in a laconic, lazy American accent, as suggested by the author's derivation, but it might not hurt.

Very little hurts this volume, apart from the suddenness of the ending, which rankled with me a little – and might well be a child's first ever open-ended text. I loved the illustrations, so vividly showing the hangdog lion (if such a thing is possible) turned by expertise and human richness into something half big cat and half bigwig human. Silverstein, damn him, seems to have been quite the polymath, even if I'd never heard of him – how was I to know he wrote the ribald song A Boy Named Sue?! His cartoonist's eye for a clear and concise line is perfectly suited to the situation of his story, and the arch, chatty and friendly way in which he brings the plot to life is just perfect.

The whole piece is just friendly – open, warm-hearted, simple, and clear yet light-of-touch with its moral. It is abrupt to conclude, but for a debut work really does work. Pushkin Children's Press, one of my favourite houses, have had a change – instead of going abroad for their lost classics they've gone back in time, and while I see 50th anniversary issues of this from recent times, I suspect this will be a welcome edition to open a quirky and clever author's world to many new-comers. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a strange appetite for marshmallows…

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

We here at the 'Bag had only met Mr Silverstein once before. Mention lions to me and I'll like as not shove a copy of Jim's Lion by Russell Hoban and Alexis Deacon in your face.

Buy Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein at Amazon.com.


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