The Butterfly Lion

The Butterfly Lion

3.8 5
by Michael Morpurgo, Christian Birmingham

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New edition of the Smarties-Prize-winning story from the former Children’s Laureate. Now published into the First Modern Classics list, fantastic stories for young readers.A lyrical and moving tale of a young boy growing up in Africa, and his lifelong friendship with a white lion.Bertie rescues an orphaned lion cub from the African veld. They are inseparable


New edition of the Smarties-Prize-winning story from the former Children’s Laureate. Now published into the First Modern Classics list, fantastic stories for young readers.A lyrical and moving tale of a young boy growing up in Africa, and his lifelong friendship with a white lion.Bertie rescues an orphaned lion cub from the African veld. They are inseparable until Bertie is sent to boarding school far away in England and the lion is sold to a circus. Bertie swears that one day they will see one another again, but it is the butterfly lion which ensures that their friendship will never be forgotten.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Winner of a Smarties Gold Medal, Morpurgo's (The Wreck of the Zanzibar) cozy, well-executed British novel may not survive the jump across the oceanthe climax depends on a casual reference likely to be lost on American readers. The story, about a boy who gives his white lion immortality, moves gracefully through frequent switches from past to present, from first to third person, from the English countryside to pre-WWI South Africa. A boy runs away from his strict boarding school ("It was a diet of Latin and stew and rugby and detentions... and chilblains... and semolina pudding"), only to meet an old woman who invites him in for tea. There, fed delicious scones, he looks out the window upon the hillside to see a huge shape of a lion, switching from white to blue. How did it come to be there? The old woman tells him the remarkable story of Bertie, who as a boy found a white lion in Africa and was later obliged to give him to a European circus. Magic enters the novel at an appropriate moment, and the conclusion is sweet. But unless readers can picture "the famous White Horse on the hillside at Uffington" (an enormous, ancient image carved into chalky ground), they will have difficulty imagining an adult Bertie and his wife carving out a similar picture of the white lion or of blue butterflies alighting on it en masse to "drink on the chalk face"concepts critical to the book's conclusion. Ages 8-12. (May)
Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
In this lovely short novel, our young narrator, unhappy at his boarding school, tries to run away. He makes it as far as the neighboring estate where the mistress of the house tells him the story of another young man, Bertie, who tried to run away from the same school. Having grown up in South Africa, Bertie adopts an extraordinary white lion. After the death of Bertie's mother, the lion is sold to a circus and Bertie is sent to boarding school in England. While learning about how Bertie is reunited with his lion, our narrator himself learns that he should go back to school. Fantasy is mixed with reality in this beautiful story as people long dead come alive to help our young narrator return to school.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This is a haunting, magical love story of a boy, the white lion cub he nurtures, and the girl the boy marries. It's about promises made and kept, the accidents of life, the people we meet, and the moments that change the direction of our lives. This is a story within a story. A boy runs away from boarding school in England, is discovered by an old woman who invites him into her home. Over tea and scones, she relates the story of her husband, Bertie, his life in Africa, and the meaning of the white lion sculpted into the hillside and of course, the butterflies. A ghost story? Perhaps. But it is the surprises in books that make reading such a joy.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8Elements of fantasy and fiction are woven into this fast-paced adventure. A student runs away from boarding school and meets an elderly lady, whom he later discovers is a ghost. She tells the story of another boy, Bertie, who grew up long ago in Africa and eventually became her husband. Lonely and neglected by his parents, he rescues an abandoned white lion cub and cares for it, gradually forming a close bond. After some years the boy's parents abruptly decide to send him to school in England and sell the lion. Bertie attempts to save the animal by returning it to the jungle, but it has lost its ability to survive in the wild and returns to the only home it has known. A French circus owner buys the lion, and the boy vows never to forget him. Twelve years later, Bertie fights in World War I and is decorated for rescuing wounded comrades. In a small French town he finally finds his lion, starving and near death, and the two friends are reunited. Heartened by the woman's tale, the student returns to school. This touching story is well written and emotionally satisfying. Readers will be drawn to this fascinating tale of a unique friendship between boy and beast. In addition to being a successful adventure story, the book demonstrates the value of characterof keeping promises, standing up for one's beliefs, and courage under fire.Gebregeorgis Yohannes, San Francisco Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
A runaway schoolboy finds a magnificent monument to a magnificent animal in this ghost story, at once marvelous and matter-of-fact, from Morpurgo (Robin of Sherwood, 1996, etc.). The author casts himself as the ten-year-old narrator, whose attempt to run away from a miserable boarding-school existence ends in a dusty house, where a friendly old widow shows him a great lion cut into the chalk on a hillside—the butterfly lion. She tells him how it came to be there: Her Bertie, a lonely boy in South Africa, found and began to raise a white lion cub, tearfully saw it sold to a French circus owner, reclaimed it years later during the Great War, and brought it to England to live. When it died, Bertie spent the next 40 years carving its likeness on the hill. Astonishing in itself, the chalk lion becomes even moreso after a rain, when thousands of Adonis Blue butterflies gather on it. Urging him to come again, the old woman takes the boy back to school; only later does he learn that she died—as her husband did—years ago. This dreamlike story is suffused with a man's lifelong love for a rare, gentle animal friend.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.51(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 13 Years

Meet the Author

Michael Morpurgo OBE is one of Britain’s best-loved writers for children. He has written over 100 books and won many prizes, including the Smarties Prize, the Blue Peter Book Award and the Whitbread Award. His recent bestselling novels include ‘Shadow’, ‘A Medal for Leroy’ and ‘Little Manfred’.His novel ‘War Horse’ has been successfully adapted as a West End and Broadway theatre play and a major film by Steven Spielberg. A former Children’s Laureate, Michael is also the co-founder, with his wife Clare, of the charity Farms for City Children.

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The Butterfly Lion 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We listened to this book on cd (bought in England, not sure if cd available in U.S.). my 3 daughters aged 5, 7 and 8 loved it from start to finish. It was a little over the head of my 5 year old but the others were fascinated by how the story takes you from England to Africa to France and follows the story of a boy's love for a lion. The book has everything to offer: romance, history, realtionships, mystery and you never know how the book is going to end. There's a great twist at the end too! I would highly recommend this book to children and adults alike. I definitely want my children to read more books by this author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was only 11 and I understood how the boy felt. I ended up crying over this book. Its really worth the time to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice,moving story about friendship and trust between a human and the white lion. I thibk anyone who has a love of animals should read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ithink that the book was pretty good buut i would probably not have chosen it myself only a friend reffered it to me