The Good Lion

The Good Lion

by Don Brown

My father and I settled in Africa in 1906. . . . And it was there, as a small girl, I was eaten by a lion.

So begins a true story from aviatrix Beryl Markham’s autobiography. Here young Beryl and a “tame” lion called Paddy come together in an encounter that challenges our notions of wild and docile, trust and duplicity, punishment and

…  See more details below


My father and I settled in Africa in 1906. . . . And it was there, as a small girl, I was eaten by a lion.

So begins a true story from aviatrix Beryl Markham’s autobiography. Here young Beryl and a “tame” lion called Paddy come together in an encounter that challenges our notions of wild and docile, trust and duplicity, punishment and forgiveness. Coupled with Don Brown’s expressive watercolors, The Good Lion is a powerful story that will leave readers wondering about the true natures of man and beast.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

" . . . This testimony is a compelling insight into the wild." Horn Book

"A vivid real-life story with a memorable message." Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Brown (Odd Boy Out) brings to life a bold and enchanting girl, the young Beryl Markham. Excerpted from West with the Night, the 1942 autobiography the aviator wrote about her youth in East Africa, the text relates the events of a visit she made with her father to the Elkington Farm, where Paddy, a hand-raised lion, freely roams the estate. "A tame lion in an unnatural lion,'' Markham's father warns her, "and whatever is unnatural is untrustworthy." Brown's sepia-tinted watercolors impart information without drawing attention to themselves. He portrays the narrator with a long brown ponytail and gray trousers. She calls the lion "harmless"; still she "remember[s] not to run," walking slowly past the giant cat when she finds him in her path. A sequence of seven suspenseful pages-one per second of elapsed time, seemingly-shows that Markham's father is right. "There was no sound or wind. Even the lion made no sound as he came swiftly behind me. What followed was my scream that was barely a whisper." During the few moments the lion actually traps her, Brown's golden spreads turn to cold shadows of purple and blue; then, as help quickly arrives, the pictures turn sunny again. "Paddy had lived and died in ways not of his choosing," Markham concludes, with unexpected compassion. Her reverence for the majesty of Nature-even its predatory creatures-will not be lost on young readers. Ages 6-10. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The nostalgic tone of an adult looking back at her childhood infuses this story and some of its watercolors. The text beautifully evokes the exuberant splendor of Africa's landscape, people, and wildlife as it tells the simple tale of a child warned against a pet lion by her father, and then attacked. The final line tells the moral: "I still have scars from his teeth and claws, but they are very small now and almost forgotten, and I do not begrudge him his moment." Lions will be lions and people should treat them—even tame ones—as such. Unfortunately, the watercolors do not match the text. The cover illustration and the two full-face depictions of the lion staring and the girl, caught between his paws and trying not to be, speak easily to child and adult reader. The other illustrations—almost cartoons—detract from, rather than add to, the text even though they clearly depict the action of the story. 2005, Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages 4 to 8.
—Elisabeth Greenberg
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Markham included the story of her childhood encounter with a lion in her autobiographical West with the Night (Farrar, 1982). Brown's adaptation of it begins with a tantalizing premise that doesn't actually get much play as later events move in a slow, dreamlike sequence. "My father and I settled in East Africa in 1906-.And it was where, as a small girl, I was eaten by a lion." The child and her father ride out to an estate where a tamed lion roams free, and she goes off exploring. Brown's sketchy, homely watercolor views include a few animals and trees against an otherwise barren landscape of earth melding into orange sky. Beryl soon encounters the resting lion, calmly stares him down, and goes on her way, unaware that he is now following her. Help miraculously arrives from a Sikh tending horses in the deserted terrain. Brown switches color tones for the anticlimactic attack, rescue, and loss of freedom for the animal. The enlarged face of the prone child, her eyes and mouth tight shut, painted in shades of purple, is the only close-up view of her-otherwise she appears as a small, crudely sketched figure. Markham goes quickly to the message of the tale, saying that this was a good lion, who did his best at being tame, and that perhaps he shouldn't be blamed for his one mistake and caged for the rest of his long days-a simplistic summation since the lion had gone on to kill a horse, a bull, and a cow the same evening.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young girl survives a terrifying encounter with a lion and learns to respect nature in this adaptation of a story from West With the Night, Markham's 1942 autobiographical account of growing up in East Africa. Beryl recounts a visit with her father to a neighboring farm where the family kept a tame lion. Beryl thinks the lion harmless, but her father cautions, "[a] tame lion is an unnatural lion . . . and whatever is unnatural is untrustworthy." Unafraid, Beryl heads alone into the bush where she encounters the lion. She defiantly sings and walks by, unaware that the lion is silently stalking her until he strikes from behind, closing his teeth on her leg. In the end, Beryl is rescued and the lion caged, leaving her to ponder what it means to be "tame." Delicate watercolor washes evocatively capture Beryl's initial optimism, her impending peril and her enduring respect for her inscrutable foe. A vivid real-life story with a memorable message. (end note) (Picture book. 6-10)

Read More

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.12(d)
AD870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. School Library Journal has called him “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.” He lives in New York with his family.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >