Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back


The witty, thought-provoking fable of a lion whose marksmanship makes him world famous, but who discovers that ‘success ' is not to his liking. ‘A most amusing book, written in an easy, mildly mad style.' 'C.

Author Biography: Shel Silverstein, renowned creator of songs, cartoons, plays and author was best known for his children's books, which have sold over 18 million copies in hardcover and have been translated into 20 languages.


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The witty, thought-provoking fable of a lion whose marksmanship makes him world famous, but who discovers that ‘success ' is not to his liking. ‘A most amusing book, written in an easy, mildly mad style.' 'C.

Author Biography: Shel Silverstein, renowned creator of songs, cartoons, plays and author was best known for his children's books, which have sold over 18 million copies in hardcover and have been translated into 20 languages.

Silverstein's friend, Tomi Ungerer, suggested he write for children and introduced him to the editor, Ursula Nordstrom, who published his first book for children, Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. But it was his second book that catapulted him into the spotlight as a bestselling author/illustrator. Published in 1964, The Giving Tree, was hailed all over the country as an inspirational parable. With over five million books sold, The Giving Tree is a childhood classic, which celebrates it's 35th anniversary this fall.

Shel Silverstein wrote nine books for children including Falling Up; A Light in the Attic; Where the Sidewalk Ends; The Missing Piece; The Missing Piece Meets the Big O; and A Giraffe and a Half.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060256760
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1963
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 112
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.87 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein is the author-artist of many beloved books of prose and poetry. He was a cartoonist, playwright, poet, performer, recording artist, and Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated songwriter.


If there is such a thing as a "bad boy of children's literature," it would have to be Shel Silverstein. Though often compared to Dr. Seuss for his ability to blend humor and nonsense into irresistible rhymes, Silverstein also ventured into macabre territory that the good Doctor wouldn't have touched with a ten-foot Sneetch. Silverstein broached such unsavory topics as nose-picking, the consumption of children, and winds so strong they could decapitate a man right out from under his hat.

It's a testament to Silverstein's abilities as a cartoonist and storyteller that he was able to endow such subjects with just the right silliness and humor, endearing him to both children and adults. In collections such as the classic Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up, Silverstein makes poems into page-turners -- aided in no small part by his grungy, whimsical black-and-white drawings. He also displays a tenderhearted understanding for kids' fears and peccadilloes; one poem in A Light in the Attic, for example, all but endorses nailbiting: "It's a nasty habit, but ... I have never ever scratched a single soul."

A lifelong writer and illustrator, Silverstein had been a cartoonist for an army newspaper in Korea in the 1950s, and then a contributor to magazines. Like many succesful writers for children, Silverstein never planned to author children's books. Ironically, his first attempt at the genre -- the book that established the one-time Playboy cartoonist as a school library fixture -- is something of an anomaly in his ouevre: The Giving Tree. This bittersweet story of a tree that ultimately sacrifices itself -- down to the stump -- to the boy she loves over the course of his life was initially rejected by Silverstein's editor. Of course, it has gone on to be a great, if sentimental, success. But it was Where the Sidewalk Ends, Silverstein's straightforward collection of crooked poems, that cemented his place as a must-read for the young and young at heart. Silverstein bristled at comparisons to fellow "nonsense poet" Edward Lear, preferring instead to cite his former teacher, Robert Cosbey, as an influence.

It's worth looking at some of Silverstein's less well-known picture books, such as Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? and Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, as examples of how funny (and how subversive) Silverstein could be. In Lafcadio, the ultimate anti-hunting story, a lion learns to become such a good marksman that he provides "hunter rugs" for his fellow lions and ends up touring as a celebrity. Lafcadio soon gets bored with his opulent life, and what used to be thrilling no longer is: "This morning I went up and down in the elevator 1,423 times," he cries at one point. "IT'S OLD STUFF!"

In later years, Silverstein turned more attention to dramatic writing. Titles such as The Lady and the Tiger, Wild Life and The Devil and Billy Markham were produced with varying degrees of success, and some are still being staged by small theater groups. Silverstein also wrote a well-received screenplay, Things Change, with pal David Mamet in 1988.

Still, Silverstein's poetry is what remains his most popular contribution. His verse gave kids permission to be a little grown-up for a while, and (just as importantly) let adults experience the not-always-simple perspective of children.

Good To Know

Silverstein was a soldier in the U.S. Army in Japan and Korea in the '50s and drew cartoons for Stars and Stripes, the American military publication. His next cartooning gig was for Playboy.

Silverstein wrote several songs. His country-western song "A Boy Named Sue" was a hit for Johnny Cash in 1969. His song for Postcards From the Edge, "I'm Checkin' Out," was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sheldon Allan Silverstein (full name)
      Shel Silverstein
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 25, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Death:
      May 10, 1999
    2. Place of Death:
      Key West, Florida

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Once there was a young lion and his name was -- well, I don't really know what his name was because he lived in the jungle with a lot of other lions and if he did have a name it certainly wasn't a name like Joe or Ernie or anything like that. No, it was more of a lion name like, oh, maybe Grograph or Ruggrrg or Grmmff or Grrrrr.

Well, anyway, he had a name like that and he lived in the jungle with the other lions and he did the usual lion things like jumping and playing in the grass and swimming in the, river and eating rabbits and chasing other lions and sleeping in the sun, and he was very happy.

Well, then, one day -- I believe it was a Thursday -- after all the lions had eaten a good lunch and were sleeping in the sun, snoring lions' snores, and the sky was blue and the birds were going kaw kaw and the grass was blowing in the breeze and it was quiet and wonderful, suddenly . . .

There was such a loud sound, all the lions woke up fast and jumped straight up in the air. And they started to run. Lickety-split, lickety-clipt or clippety-clop, clippety-clop, or is that the way horses run? Well, they ran whatever way lions run. I don't know, maybe even pippety-pat. Anyway, they all ran away--

Well, almost all.

There was one lion that did not run, and that is the one I am going to tell you the story about. This one lion, he just sat up and blinked and winked in the sun and stretched his arms -- well, maybe he stretched his paws-- and he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and he said, "Hey, why is everybody running?"

Andan old lion who was running by said, "Run, kid, run, run, run, run, run, the hunters are coming."

"Hunters? Hunters? What are hunters?" said the young lion, still blinking in the sun.

"Look," said the old lion, 44 you'd better stop asking so many questions and just run if you know what's good for you."

So the young lion got up and stretched and began to run with the other lions. Pippity-pat, or was it clippety-clop? I think we have gone through all of this before.

And after he had run for a while, he stopped and looked back.

"Hunters," he said to himself, "I wonder what hunters are?"

And he said the name hunters over and over to himself: "Hunters, hunters." And you know, he liked the sound of the name hunters -- you know, the way some people like the sound of the words Tuscaloosa or tapioca or Carioca or gumbo, he liked the sound of the word hunters.

So he let all the other lions run ahead and he stopped and he hid in the tall grass, and soon he could see the hunters coming and they all stood on their hind feet and they all wore nice little red caps and they all carried funny sticks that made loud noises.

And the young lion liked their looks.

Yes he just liked their looks. So when a nice hunter with green eyes and one tooth missing in the front passed by the tall grass with his funny red cap (that had some egg salad on it, by the way) the young lion stood up.

"Hi, hunter," he said.

"Good heavens," cried the hunter, "a ferocious lion, a dangerous lion, a roaring, bloodthirsty man-eating lion."

"I am not a man-eating lion," said the young lion. "I eat rabbits and blackberries."

"No excuses," said the hunter. "I am going to shoot


"But I give up," said the young lion, and he put up his paws in the air.

"Don't be silly," said the hunter. "Who ever heard of a lion giving up. Lions don't give up, lions fight to the en& Lions eat up hunters! So I must shoot you now and make you into a nice rug and put you in front of my fireplace and on cold winter evenings I will sit on you and toast marshmallows."

"Well, my goodness, you don't have to shoot me," said the young lion. "I will be your rug and I will lie in front of your fireplace and I won't move a muscle and you can sit on me and toast all the marshmallows you want. I love marshmallows," said the young lion.

"You what?" said the hunter.

"Well," said the young lion, "to be absolutely honest with you, I don't know if I really love marshmallows or not because I have never tasted one, but I love most things and 1 love the sound of the word marshmallow and if they taste like they sound -- mmmmmmmmmmmmm! -- I just know I will love them."

"That Is ridiculous," said the hunter. "I have never heard of a lion giving up. I have never heard of a lion eating marshmallows. I am going to shoot you now and that is that." And he put his funny stick up to his shoulder.

"But why?" said the young lion.

"Because I am, that is why," said the hunter, and he pulled the trigger. And the stick went click.

"What was that click?" said the young lion. "Am I shot?"

Well, as you can imagine, the hunter was very embarrassed about this and his face turned as red as his cap.

"I'm afraid I forgot to load my gun," he said. "I guess the joke is on me -- ha ha -- but if you will just excuse me for a moment, I will put a bullet in and we will go on from there."

"No," said the young lion, "I don't think I will. I don't think I will let you put a bullet in. I don't think I will let you shoot me.

Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. Copyright © by Shel Silverstein. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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