If we are friends on WordPress and Blogspot, by now, you would know that I am a sucker for books on animals. If I were ever asked why I live, I would say with a trace of extreme seriousness in my tone — “To read animal-books!” 😉 I adore animals. And I adore all things animals.
So, I was embarrassed when I realised it took so long for me to discover Michael Morpurgo. I still can’t figure out how I found him. I must have been straying on Goodreads. But, I am supremely glad for having come across the author, and one of his charming books — The Butterfly Lion.
The children’s book on the heartwarming friendship between a boy called Bertie and his white lion cub moved me. It moved me so much like Dogsbody, The Honest Truth, Charlotte’s Web, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Art of Racing in the Rain. (…all the animal-books that I have read this year.)
As soon as I finished reading The Butterfly Lion, I stalked Morpurgo on Goodreads, like a madwoman. Because, I fell in love with his work, and I wanted to know more about his other books. That level of stalking would have made him summon police in the real world. 🙂
I knew I was in for a great treat when I read this passage.
“Sun’s come out,” said the old lady, offering me another scone. I took it eagerly. “Always does, you know. It may be difficult to remember sometimes, but there is always sun behind the clouds, and the clouds do go in the end. Honestly.”
What wise lines! The wisdom that children’s books offer always make me curious. It beats me when I think that many adults’ book try hard to get there, and still fail. Maybe, just maybe, because I revere children’s literature, and I refuse to think about it any other way. 🙂
The Butterfly Lion shouldn’t be dismissed as just a children’s book. Because, A) The prose is beautiful, B) There is also an unexpected twist at the end, which adults might like. I am almost pitching right? 😉
As for the prose, sample these lines:
For the first time in his life Bertie was totally happy. The lion cub was all the brothers and sisters he could ever want, all the friends he could ever need. The two of them would sit side by side on the sofa out on the veranda and watch the great red sun go down over Africa, and Bertie would read him Peter and the Wolf , and at the end he would promise him that he would never let him go off to a zoo and live behind bars like the wolf in the story. And the lion cub would look up at Bertie with trusting amber eyes.
“Why don’t you give him a name?” his mother asked one day.
“Because he doesn’t need one,” replied Bertie. “He’s a lion, not a person. Lions don’t need names.”
The said passage reminded me of my favourite dialogue from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.
“What’s your name,’ Coraline asked the cat. ‘Look, I’m Coraline. Okay?’
‘Cats don’t have names,’ it said.
‘No?’ said Coraline.
‘No,’ said the cat. ‘Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”
I loved so many things about The Butterfly Lion. Besides Bertie and the lion, I loved this ordinary, yet lovely character called Millie, who loves kite-flying and writing letters. And the circus owner, who was kind to the lion. That was a refreshing change. I was expecting him to mistreat the animal. But he treated him “like his son.” However, I still cried a couple of times. But, I cried because The Butterfly Lion genuinely warmed my heart, and thankfully it wasn’t mushy or depressing.
Besides the obvious elements — wildlife, nature, friendship, loyalty, love — The Butterfly Lion has a tinge of metaphysics, which I relished.
Have you read The Butterfly Lion, or any other books of Michael Morpurgo? Let me know your favourites. 🙂