Lionheart by Richard Collingridge, published by David Fickling Books
At a craft sale in our local park museum, our then one year old daughter chose as a treat a small, peach and white, knitted lion. Recently, thanks to Lionheart, the wondrous new picturebook from Richard Collingridge (author and illustrator of When it Snows, a book we've loved from our daughter's first months) our now three year old daughter has taught her "Lioney" to roar.
Learning to find our inner roar is the central theme of this stunning, cinematic triumph. When a small boy senses the presence of a monster in his bedroom, he runs, clutching his Lionheart cuddly toy. As he flees through the town, illuminated by the moon, he reaches its outskirts.
Then, in a scene reminiscent of the opening to Where the Wild Things Are, he wanders into grasses that grow thicker and taller. He emerges into a magical and mysterious forest. Believing the monster to be close by, he rushes to an opening, dropping his Lionheart. There, suddenly, he is surrounded - by a menagerie of creatures. They can sense the monster too, and they are afraid.
They all take flight, but the boy runs straight into "something, or someone" - a huge Lionheart, towering above the boy - majestic, strong, fearless and protective. Riding high, nestled in Lionheart's mane, they set off on thrilling adventures, leaping rocks, diving under water, and joining the animals to explore ancient ruins. But their fun cannot last - still they feel the imminent danger of the monster. Finally the boy, his Lionheart and the animals see the monster looming over them.
To reveal the book's ending here would spoil the impact of its extraordinary denouement, and we hope others will discover for themselves its final pages, among which is one of the most dramatic double page illustrations we've ever seen.
Despite (or perhaps because of) Lionheart's generous pinch of mild peril, our daughter requested a reading of it six days in a row - sometimes a few times each day. Equaling our love for Collingridges's 'When it Snows' will be a tough task, but Lionheart is quickly finding a place among our favourite reads.