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Christian the Lion    by Anthony Bourke & John Rendall order for
Christian the Lion
by Anthony Bourke
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Christian the Lion - written by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall (and adapted for children by Ruth Knowles) - is the endearing story of a small lion cub who won the hearts of two young men, Ace and John, and lived with them for a year. In the middle of the book are sixteen pages of photographs of Christian (in color as well as black and white) and there are More About Christian... pages at the back of the book.

It all begins when Ace and John are Christmas shopping in Harrod's, the famous London department store. They are fascinated to spy two lion cubs (one already sold) in the exotic animal department, and are quickly entranced by the young male. Sorry to see him in such a small cage, they decide to buy him and try to give him a better life. They call him Christian.

They find him space in the basement of the furniture store (aptly called Sophistocat) where they work (and above which they share an apartment) and arrange to exercise him in a walled garden nearby. While he's small, Christian has the run of the shop and becomes a favorite with customers (though he shocks a few), but he gets into trouble too, especially as he grows - and grows, and grows.

Ace and John worry about Christian's future. Luckily they have a special pair of customers, who are delighted to meet Christian. Actors Bill and Virginia played the leads in Born Free and tell them about George Adamson's plan to free a group of lions in Kenya. Soon, Christian has the chance to be one of them, with a television programme to be made of the experience.

Readers join the young lion on his journey to Africa and watch - along with Ace, John and George Adamson - as he gets to know, and to get along with, the other lions who will be part of his pride. He learns to live - as he was meant to - away from humans. Christian the Lion is indeed an 'amazing and heartwarming true story', and will be especially appreciated by those who love felines of all sizes.

2nd Review by Lyn Seippel:

John Rendall and Anthony Bourke find more than they bargained for on a Christmas shopping trip to Harrod's, the world's most famous department store. Harrod's has a reputation for having everything. That Christmas, everything includes brother and sister lion cubs.

The female has been sold, but the male needs a home. He is rapidly becoming too big for his cage. John and Anthony can't stand the thought of leaving the playful lion in his tiny cage and quickly agree to buy him. They name him Christian and go back to their flat to prepare for him.

A flat isn't a very good place for a lion either, but a local vicar allows the friends to use the church grounds to exercise Christian. After a year of loving and caring for the mischievous lion they decide to give him his freedom.

Christian was born in a zoo. He has never been to Africa, but with the help of John and Anthony and others in Africa - including George Adamson who raised and released Elsa - the now-grown lion is introduced to his rightful place in the wild.

Christian's story began in 1969. The love of his London caretakers for Christian and their realization that he belongs in the wild is a touching, true story for all ages.

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