Lionboy: The Truth


After months of searching, not to mention leading a pride of escaped circus lions through Europe and all the way back to Africa, Catspeaker Charlie Ashanti has finally been reunited with his parents—and a long-lost relative with a huge secret to reveal. But their family reunion doesn't last long. Kidnapped and thrown in a boat, Charlie finds himself alone and bound for who knows where. Charlie's parents and his faithful lion friends are in hot pursuit, but can Charlie outwit his captor and topple the Corporacy's ...

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After months of searching, not to mention leading a pride of escaped circus lions through Europe and all the way back to Africa, Catspeaker Charlie Ashanti has finally been reunited with his parents—and a long-lost relative with a huge secret to reveal. But their family reunion doesn't last long. Kidnapped and thrown in a boat, Charlie finds himself alone and bound for who knows where. Charlie's parents and his faithful lion friends are in hot pursuit, but can Charlie outwit his captor and topple the Corporacy's wicked enterprise? That's the plan, and Charlie intends to pull it off—no matter the cost.

Catspeaker Charlie Ashanti finds himself on a boat to the Caribbean where he will be sold to the Corporacy, but his parents and lion friends are in pursuit, and he is determined to outwit his captors.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Zizou Corder is the mother and adolescent daughter team who brought us the first two books of "Lion Boy." Book three and the conclusion of the trilogy set in some nebulous not-too-distant future finds our multiracial hero Charlie reunited with his parents at last—although not for long. With the evil Corporacy still hot on their trails, Charlie is kidnapped from Morocco's seaside town of Essaouira and tossed in the hold of a smelly ship with only Sergei the cat, and Ninu the faithful multi-linguist chameleon, for succor. Never fear, Mum and Dad—not to mention King Boris of Bulgaria and a few lions—are soon hot on his trail. Can Charlie and his loyal followers foil the Corporacy at last? This completion of the story spends an amazing amount of beginning time recapping the first two books. Then it spends an inordinate amount of ending time sorting out every character's future. What is left in the middle gives Charlie little time for action. But then, he is bound or chained for much of it. Fans of the earlier books will probably accept the inevitable. And Ninu the chameleon is rather charming. 2005, Dial/Penguin, Ages 8 to 12.
—Kathleen Karr
This final tale about young Charlie Ashanti, "lion-rescuer, shipwreck-survivor, circus veteran, son of asthma-cure-inventing scientists, and Catspeaker," picks up where the last book leaves off, with Charlie resting up from his rescue of his kidnapped parents. Unfortunately, now it's Charlie's turn to be kidnapped. He's taken off on a boat first to Ghana and then to a Caribbean island owned by the evil Corporacy. His parents and his lion friends set off in pursuit, while his old enemies Maccomo and Rafi pose new threats and a new friend, a little chameleon who can speak any language, comes to Charlie's aid. This lively series by a British mother-and-daughter team will appeal to upper elementary and middle school students, who will appreciate intrepid Charlie's wild escapades. A fun, light read. (Lionboy trilogy, #3). KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2005, Penguin, Dial, 240p. map. illus., Ages 12 to 15.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-As this final volume in the trilogy opens, Charlie Ashanti and his scientist parents have been reunited in Morocco. Now, however, they must run from a powerful network of corporations that had arranged their kidnapping in order to have control of their anti-asthma medication. Enemy Rafi Sadler is kidnapped alongside Charlie at the hands of lion trainer Maccomo, who hopes to sell Charlie's cat-speaking talents. The details of captivity and escape occupy most of the book. Tension and adventure hold taut on every page, but descriptions of the Corporacy Community assume an understanding of corporate exploitation that may baffle younger readers. As in the first two volumes, there are many characters, not all of whom have developed personalities or motives. A contrived and loose-ended plot element is the appearance of tiger-trainer Mabel Stark as Charlie's aunt and as Rafi's biological mother. Otherwise, the trilogy wraps up neatly, although too abruptly, with the Corporacy overthrown and the lions freed. The popularity of the first two "Lionboy" books will ensure demand for the third installment. Deelen's illustrations are as whimsical and as detailed as in the first two volumes.-Wendi Hoffenberg, Yonkers Public Library, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the third and final installment of the trilogy, it's Charlie-lion-rescuer, shipwreck survivor, circus veteran, son of asthma-cure-inventing scientists-who is kidnapped. Page one quickly recaps the action as friends and enemies from the previous tales join the chase to rescue, or thwart, cat-speaking Charlie as he tries to outwit the evil Corporacy. Several plot devices, reversed situations and wily details gear up the fast action and rapid pace: a ship named Old Yeller, a cameo appearance by a man named Fidel from Cuba and a conversing chameleon. So who's on the boats, following whom, why and where? A rip-roaring ending resolves the conspiracy (based on asthma-inducing cats). The fans who have been chomping at the bit for the conclusion can now sink their teeth into it. Skimpy black-and-white drawings don't heighten the drama; maps would have sufficed. (Fiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565119901
  • Publisher: HighBridge Company
  • Publication date: 9/8/2005
  • Series: The Lionboy Trilogy
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 4.46 (w) x 1.26 (h) x 7.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Originally from Wiltshire, England, award-winning narrator SIMON JONES is perhaps most often recognized as ‘Arthur Dent’ in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (both radio and TV versions) or as ‘Bridey’ in the classic TV mini-series “Brideshead Revisited”.

He has been seen in such films as Privates in Parade, Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Miracle on 34th Street (remake), and Devil’s Own; most recently on TV as a judge in OZ and as ‘C.S. Lewis’ in PBS’s A Question of God; and regularly on stage, including 10 major roles on Broadway. In 2004 his audio book narrations won him AudioFile magazine's "Golden Voice" award, and Publisher’s Weekly "Narrator of the Year."

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 3

Aneba went on the Internet to plan their journey across the Sahara to Ghana. Solartrain to Marrakech, then they'd have to cross the High Atlas over to Ourzazate and Zagora, pass into Algeria-they'd be on camels by then. . . . There was a Tuareg in Beni Abbas who knew where the landmines were and could guide you through the rebel country . . . Fifty-two days to Timbuktu . . . Cross the River Niger, avoiding the feverswamps . . . Or maybe take the Route du Tanezrouft, through Mali-fewer people took it, so it would be safer-1,300 kilometers of sand . . . Then was there a train from Gao? Otherwise Ouagadougou . . . He was busy with maps and timetables, secretive because he didn't want word getting out of where and when they were going. "We don't know where young Rafi is," he said. "We must be careful."

This carefulness, it had to be said, was driving Charlie mad. It wasn't that he didn't understand the need for it-of course he did. Hadn't he rescued a pride of Lions from the giant circus ship? Hadn't he plotted with gondoliers and an extinct saber-toothed lion to bring down the doge of Venice? Hadn't he been imprisoned by the head of the Bulgarian Secret Services, and been snowed in on the Orient Express? Hadn't he outdone both Rafi Sadler, the teenage kidnapper, and Maccomo, the mysterious liontrainer? Of course he understood about danger. Why couldn't his parents understand that, and stop-well, actually this was what really got him-telling him it was his bedtime?

Oh, it wasn't just that. It was the whole thing: Stay in the hotel, Charlie, don't talk to Sergei outside, Charlie (which was a bit much, given that Sergei wasn't allowed in), no, you can't go to the beach, Charlie. But most of all: Charlie, it's your bedtime. He was practically taller than his mother, for crike sake. Weren't there rules about how they couldn't send you to bed after you were a certain height?

And another thing: They kept saying they didn't know where Rafi was. He could tell them. If they let him out for five minutes he could find Omar, the leader of the Essaouira cats, and Omar would track him down in no time. Or he could ask Sergei to ask Omar.

"No," said his mother. "I know it's hard, love, but we mustn't risk it."

So he was imprisoned again! Every time he had anything to do with grown-ups they just imprisoned him. Even his parents.

He got pretty upset about it.

"But Rafi knows we're staying here!" he said. "If he was going to tell the Corporacy he would have rung them days ago. They could be on their way here right now!"

"All the more reason to get away quickly," said Aneba.

"Shouldn't we at least go and stay somewhere else?"

"Best to keep our heads down," said Magdalen.

Charlie just didn't agree. He was pretty sure Rafi had left town-otherwise wouldn't Sergei have come and told him? Sergei would be talking to Omar, surely. Charlie had searched the hotel for an outward-facing window, but everything faced in toward the courtyard. Except for the front, the walls were all party walls with other buildings.

There must be somewhere, he thought. On one occasion he tried to climb out onto the roof via the top balcony around the courtyard, but the hotel manager spotted him and called him down.

The one good thing about being stuck in was that he got the chance to talk to his new aunt. Of course, they talked about big cats. She was full of questions and Charlie was happy to have an opportunity to discuss lions openly, and with someone who knew a bit about the subject. He held forth at such length that, though Mabel was delighted to listen, he felt it time he asked a question of her. He asked about her baby. He wasn't that interested, to tell the truth, but he couldn't think of anything else.

"He'd be seventeen now," she said.

"Seventeen!" exclaimed Charlie. "That's not a baby!"

"No, darling," said Mabel. "People grow, you know."

"So do you know where he is?" he asked, to cover his embarrassment. Of course he knew people grew.

"Still with the woman who took him," she said. "Martha Sortch. I never met her. I never saw him again. The adoption people insisted."

For a moment Charlie didn't even notice. He was trying to imagine how his aunt might feel about that, and to be nice to her.

"Does it make you sad?" he asked.

"Yes," she said. "There's always this little gap."

Then it hit him.

"Sortch?" he exclaimed.


"Her name was Sortch? Martha Sortch?"

"Yes," said Mabel. "Why?"

Maybe there were two. It's not a common name, but . . .

"Where did she live?"

"In London," said Mabel. "Mag and I lived in the country then, so I went up to town and the hospital organized it. Why?"

"Nothing," said Charlie.

But it wasn't nothing.

Martha Sortch was Rafi's mother's name.

Rafi, thanks to the young woman's tending, was much better-physically. Mentally, he felt dreadful. He was very glad the cell phones didn't seem to work around here, so he didn't have to receive angry, humiliating phone calls from anyone at the Corporacy, saying, Where is our item? Have you still not found it? They blamed him for not having delivered Charlie, because if they had Charlie they could get Aneba and Magdalen back. And it was true, he had lost Charlie over and over again.

Well, he wasn't a fool. Charlie was much brighter and braver than Rafi had expected. And stronger. And he had those bliddy lions on his side. So, Rafi had to be realistic. He needed help.

Not for the first time, Rafi wished Troy were still with him. Nothing like a big dog to make a guy feel big himself. But Troy had deserted him in Paris, so there was no use thinking about him.

(In fact, Troy was in a dog pound at the very southernmost tip of Spain, having been picked up on the quayside, where he had spent three days mooning tragically after the ferry that Rafi had taken across to Morocco. But Rafi, like many disloyal people, wouldn't recognize loyalty if it bit him on the bum. Which of course Troy was unlikely to do, being so loyal.)

Lying on the grubby blanket that passed for a bed in Leila's hovel, Rafi thought things through.

It was easy, really.

He hadn't the money nor the contacts to hire anybody, plus they all talked bliddy Arabic and French not proper English. He couldn't trust 'em. No, the person he needed was the person he'd worked with before. The person who had been prepared to sell Charlie to him. The person who had also been tricked by Charlie, and didn't forgive him. The person who wanted his lions back, who was nearby-yes, Maccomo and Rafi would make a very good team.

He'd go and find him.

He didn't want to run into Charlie's dad, though. Crike, the size of the man. And Charlie threw quite a whack himself, so crike knows what the Dad would be capable of.

Rafi's arm felt a lot better. The bruising on his brow was going down. He was pretty sure he'd caught some kind of lice in this dump, though. Bliddy itchy. Never mind.

So where would Maccomo be?

He pondered.

"Leila!" he called. She stuck her head through the empty doorway from the other room.

"Any animal dealers in this town?"

He assumed she didn't speak English, so he explained by speaking really loudly. "Animal. Dealers," he enunciated. "Market. Animals." He made an animal noise, just to be clear.

Leila, like most Africans, in fact had phrases of many languages, and she soon worked out what the crazy foreigner was on about. Later that day she led Rafi down some nasty alleys to the nasty little home of Majid the lion catcher-the very man from whom Maccomo had bought the oldest lion and the lionesses in the first place, years before.

The lion catcher, a scraggly dark little man as crooked as a thuya tree and just as tough, sent a small boy for mint tea, and crouched down, gesturing Rafi to sit. Leila stood quietly at the back, taking in what was going on. If her foreigner was engaging in business, she might want a part of it.

"So," said the lion catcher, after many formalities that made Rafi rather impatient-greetings, inquiries after health, waiting for the tea and so on. "How can I help you? Do you need animals? Reptiles, birds, eggs-or my own speciality, lions?"

"Not lions," said Rafi. "I need . . . a lion trainer,"

The lion catcher's eyes sparked. "Anyone in particular?" he asked.

"You know which one," Rafi said. "The one that was here recently." The lion catcher grinned. "Lion trainers are very expensive," he said. "But I will make you a good price . . ."

Rafi jumped up and in one movement took the skinny little man by the throat.

"I want him," he said quietly, "and he wants me. It would be foolish to stand between us."

He let Majid down to the ground again. The man blinked at him.

"Do not make me your enemy," Majid said calmly. "You have enough enemies already. Go to the ship in the harbor called Old Yeller. Speak there to Capitaine Drutzel. Go now and your Liontrainer will come to you."

Moments after Rafi left, Maccomo appeared from Majid's other room. His wrists were still raw where the ropes had been cut away, but all traces of lion droppings had been washed off him, and a decent dinner of lamb and oranges and couscous had strengthened him.

"How interesting," he said. "How very interesting."

He looked up. Leila was still standing in the corner. "Who are you?" he said.

"What do you want?"

"I brought business," she said. "I seek my share."

Majid laughed, and handed her a coin. "Go away," he said, and she pulled her cloth over her head and left.

"So," said Maccomo. His eyes were bright and his languor fell off him like a robe slipping from his shoulders. "So, Majid, how soon can Old Yeller be ready? I shall go to Capitaine Drutzel later. You go back to the Riad el Amira. Sooner or later they have to come out. Go, and bring them to me: either three, or two, or one-it matters not. If I have only one the others will follow. Go!"

Majid smiled, and took down his sack and his long fork with two prongs, good for pinning something down by the neck; his small gray gun for shooting darts with; the darts themselves, long and nasty and containing drugs that, when they pierce the skin, send a creature to sleep; his ropes, his chains, his big whip.

He was officially a lion catcher, but he wasn't fussy. He'd catch anything if the money was right. And though Maccomo might not have had money now, he'd always been a good customer. And even Majid had heard of the Corporacy.

There was no chance really of Primo leaving Venice quietly. Claudio handled it: He put the word out through the gondoliers and their mothers, and all the Venetians soon understood that their beloved winged lion had to go home. They turned out in droves across to the Lido, to wave him off, and to see the great scarlet and pink hot-air balloon in which Claudio would take him away. A small band came too, to serenade the departure of the beloved Lion of San Marco.

The huge balloon lay on the long white beach, flexing and writhing like an animal as the hot air from its blowers filled it up. If Charlie had been there, he would have wanted to run inside the balloon, and feel the warm wind in the strange translucent cavern of silk.

"It's cold up there," said King Boris, busily unloading from the back of his rickshaw several cashmere blankets for Primo to be swathed in. "The wind is good. Shouldn't take you more than a day or two. Supplies are all on board-rather good supplies too-and the navigation system has just been serviced so you shouldn't have any trouble."

Suddenly, the balloon whipcracked, and whipcracked again, and then in a great swooping movement as the hot air stiffened it, it leaped upright. The crowd gasped. The whole contraption-the quivering balloon and the compact and luxurious covered basket hanging beneath it, in which the voyagers would ride-was securely tethered to the ground. Even so, it looked as if it might fly off any time it chose. The basket looked tiny against the vastness of the balloon, let alone the sky above and the journey ahead of them.

"In you get," commanded King Boris. Claudio carefully led Primo up the special little stairs into the basket. King Boris stared southward, down toward the gray, flustered Adriatic Sea. He took a big breath of sea air.

Primo was inside now, nestled in his blankets. Claudio was standing on the edge of the hatch through which one entered the basket, awaiting instructions for takeoff. The musicians were craning their necks as they played their special sad Bulgarian farewell tune in honor of King Boris's generosity to Primo.

King Boris had a look on his face.

"Actually," he said, "I think I'll come too." And with a dashing grin he leaped up the stairs and into his favorite spot by the pilot's controls-it was quite a surprising feat for so stout a gentleman. Then he pulled some levers, pushed some buttons and steadied himself against a rail. "Hold on!" he called to Claudio above the roar of the blowers.

The ropes and the staircase fell away beneath them as the great glowing balloon rose slowly and beautifully into the air, lurching a little in the freedom of the wind before it righted itself. It was a magnificent sight. The music fell away beneath them, and the crowd gasped some more-especially Edward.

"But, Your Majesty!" he called.

King Boris was not listening, or he couldn't hear. "Come on Claudio!" he said, his shiny black eyes beaming enthusiasm. "Come, my fellow balloonatic! Let's go and help that foolish boy!"

When the Lions realized that Maccomo had escaped, all hell broke loose.

"Who was watching over him!" howled the young lion. "How could this have happened! All the help that Charlie gave us, and he only ever asked us to do one thing for him, and now we have failed!" He was overwrought.

"Calm down," said the oldest lion. "The mothers have already given chase."

And indeed they had. Without a word to anyone, the three lionesses had set off through the forest, long and swift and silent, trying to catch Maccomo's scent, trying to track him. But they were confused: Just as in Paris the yellow lioness had peed to disguise Charlie's scent and confuse Rafi's dog, Troy, so the lion droppings with which Maccomo had smeared himself now confused them. When for a moment they thought they had caught his track, they were then filled with doubt by smelling-themselves. They ran hither and thither, following now one of their brothers, now one of each other, but never-quite-Maccomo.

The wild lions-those who had never been in captivity-looked on, a little puzzled at all the fuss. They understood that their ex-captive brothers and sisters felt a debt to the human Catspeaking boy, but it would have been a darn sight easier just to have eaten this Maccomo in the first place-it would have avoided all sorts of trouble. If he'd gone, good riddance to him. Someone would eat him soon enough anyway.

The oldest lion, though it took him longer to come around to it, somewhat shared this point of view. Maccomo could hardly survive in the forest. The mothers would catch him. Charlie would be long gone by now anyway. There was nothing they could do, if they failed to find him now. They would keep looking, of course.

"Keep looking for how long?" asked the young lion. "And in the meantime-what if Charlie has not left? And even if he has-he believes that he is safe from Maccomo. He will go out into the world believing that we are protecting him by keeping Maccomo prisoner, and not only are we not protecting him, we haven't even told him that we're not. Let me go after him, Father-after Charlie-to tell him what has happened."

"I'll go too," said Elsina.

"Don't be stupid," said her brother. "Father, let me go."

The oldest lion looked down at his son with great affection. "No," he said.

"But I must," said the young lion. "I must-I mean, I must. I have to."

"No," said the oldest lion.

"Why not?"

"You'll die. You'll be caught. You won't find him. You'll be alone and helpless. You'll be taken back to the circus, or to a zoo, or killed for your fur, or so someone can eat your flesh."

"You mean I am too young-"

"I mean you are too lion-you are too animal. Only humans and birds can travel around without protection nowadays. I have not brought you out of captivity to lose you again."

"Charlie brought us out of captivity, Father," said the young lion quietly.

The oldest lion turned away. "Do not think I am happy about this!" he snapped. "You are not going. Anyway, the man is drugged and weak. The mothers will find him soon and bring him back."

The young lion was not convinced. He had a reason of his own for knowing better: He had checked the medicine bottle, rolling dusty by the wide old tree. Dusty, forgotten, and not much emptier than it had been when they took it off Maccomo in the first place. Maccomo was not drugged and weak. He was strong, determined, and full of plots. No way could he be left to go after Charlie, and Charlie not be warned.

A day or two later, the goats and lizards and wild lions of the Argan forests were astounded by the sight, just before dawn, of an enormous scarlet globe with what looked like a giant nest slung beneath it, sliding slowly across the pearly sky, roaring softly as it went.

"What on earth is that?" wondered Elsina, lifting her head from drinking at one of the forest's few streams.

"It looks like the Bucintoro," said the young lion. "Like the glories of Venice . . ." For a moment he and Elsina silently remembered their curious past: King Boris's palazzo, the doge's great scarlet and golden boat, the murky canals and elegant black gondolas of Venice.

"It's beautiful," said Elsina.

"It's nothing special," said one of the wild lions, irritated by talk of things he knew nothing about. "It's just some big bird."

The young lion and Elsina exchanged glances. This always happened when they mentioned human stuff. That's why they usually kept quiet about it. Silently they lowered their heads and turned back to their drinking.

And that is why they did not notice when, about five miles on, the balloon began to descend, nor when it landed, with a thud and a lurch like a huge octopus swaying on the tide. The bright silk collapsed sideways over a thicket of thorns, bouncing slightly. A long mottled snake shook and slithered swiftly away. Lizards skittered. Birds rose in clouds from the thuya trees, cackling and twittering in fear.

Within moments, one brave little goat had hopped up onto a branch of thuya and was trying to nibble the silk. Seconds after that, King Boris appeared at the hatch, calling: "Dear goat, desist! This is a mode of transport, not dinner! For goodness' sake, foolish beast, go and dine elsewhere!" The goat, too stupid to be alarmed, gave King Boris a friendly look and went back to nibbling.

Claudio appeared behind King Boris and peered out. Together they emerged and clambered to the not-very-high top of the tree.

"There is the town," said Claudio, pointing off to the west, where Essaouira was beginning to show up, a smudge on the flat horizon in the early light. "I shall go and find Charlie. He'll be able to take Primo safe to the lions."

"And I shall stay and guard the balloon," said King Boris. It had started to flex and sway as if it were thinking of taking off again. "From goats."

"Ciao!" called Claudio. "I be quick as I can!"

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  • Posted July 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

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    A Satisfying Ending

    "Lionboy: The Truth" by Zizou Corder is the third and final installment in a bestselling trilogy. The book is very much like the first two, which makes it a little boring to read. However, it is still enjoyable and has a good, satisfying ending.

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