Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Christian the Lion by Bourke and Rendall

Christian the Lion
by Anthony (Ace) Bourke & John Rendall
Copyright 2009
Delacorte Books - Nonfiction/Ages 9-12
128 pages

I can't get enough of reading about Christian the Lion, the lion bought by authors Bourke and Rendall at Harrods in London and eventually released into the wild with the help of the actors who played Joy and George Adamson in Born Free, as well as Adamson, himself. You may have seen the YouTube video of Christian greeting Ace and John after they returned to Africa to see how he was doing. It brought tears to my eyes, of course. I'm a total sap, after all, but it is really an unusual and deeply touching video. Plus, he's just a big ol' kitty cat. That'll do it. Christian the Lion is the story of Christian, up to the time of the video.

I read a children's book about Christian, last year, and when I happened across this version for older children in the homeless shelter store, I grabbed it so fast you'd have thought I was trying to keep it away from someone. There was actually nobody else in the store at the time, but I was truly excited to see yet another book about Christian.

Born to zoo lions, Christian and his sister were the only two remaining cubs at Harrods when Ace and John, two Australians living in London, happened to see him in 1969. They thought a cage in a department store was a horrible place for a lion cub and decided almost immediately that they would buy him in order to give him a better life (his sister had already been sold). Christian the Lion begins with their discovery of Christian at Harrods and tells how they got to know the cub, brought him home to their flat over a furniture store and were granted permission to exercise him in a churchyard. As Christian grew, he eventually was no longer allowed to roam freely in the furniture store or play in the churchyard because he frightened people. By then, Ace and John had already begun to make plans to release Christian into the wild.

No matter how great the detail, the story of Christian is an uplifting true tale of human compassion, deep affection, and tender love. Christian the Lion satisfied my desire to know a bit more about Christian, but I'm still hankering to read the even more complete full-length version. There's a lovely section crammed with terrific photos, in the middle of the book.

I highly recommend Christian the Lion to animal lovers, people who love memoirs (kids and adults alike, although most adults probably would like to read a more in-depth version) and anybody else whose ears perked up when they saw the cover of the book. You should have seen my ears perk and my eyes widen, heard my pulse race.

Here's a more time-appropriate video of Christian's story (with music from that era). It goes a bit farther, showing how John and Ace spent time with Christian's pride. Lions are in extreme danger. I've been getting quite a few emails about lions from one of my favorite organizations, Defenders of Wildlife. Apparently, a very deadly poison is being used in their habitat -- and since there are only two places that lions still exist in the wild, their already rapidly declining population could easily be driven to extinction. Yikes! Did you know the Eastern Cougar was officially declared extinct, this week? ~sniffle~

Here's my little tiger, Fiona. If she read my blog, she'd undoubtedly have felt neglected, this week, so I figure it's her turn.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I remember your other review. This book sounds great to me!

  2. That original YouTube video brought me to tears! How nice that there is a more complete version of the story out there. I'll have to look for it :)

  3. Isn't this an awesome story?!?! We just showed the video to our staff at a Professional Development meeting this last week and every time I watched it as I prepared the presentation I cried! I went to Youtube and watched every video I could on this story and these men. What a wonderful reunion and a reminder.

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  4. I saw the YouTube video and was touched as well. Christian the Lion sounds like a great read!

  5. I saw the video and was amazed as well. I think this would be a wonderful read and look forward to trying to pick it up myself.

    On another similar topic, I have seen this commercial running on the animal channel about people wit dangerous animal obsessions, and the last show they were talking about a family that had lion around the house, living with them and their infant children. There were pictures of the babies laying in the middle of the floor, and the lions just cavorting around them. Apparently this lead to some kind of tragedy, but I don't know what it was, because I didn't watch the show. After hearing about the success of Christian and remembering that, I am not sure if this show is just sensationalism gone wild, or if there really could be a problem there.

  6. Kathy,

    I loved the younger children's book, too. I'm surprised that you remember!

    Gentle Reader,

    I think the full-length book is named "A Lion Called Christian" but I'm not certain. That video was so heart-tugging that it's hard to get enough of the story!

    Inside a Book,

    I still cry, every time I see it, too! It's awfully touching to see a lion rush up and start loving all over his human buddies. And, pretty amazing to see them running around the churchyard, playing ball with him, too. No wonder he was so in love with them! They really were true animal lovers and treated Christian like their best friend. It's a wonderful story.


    It was such a fun read. I probably ought to just break the bank and buy a copy of the longer version. I'm trying not to buy, though. I have far too many books, already. On the other hand, it's a book I know I'd read right away, rather than adding it to a stack! I really loved this version.


    It's a really terrific read. I'd like to read the longer, adult version to get even more details, but it's just such a great story that anything is good.

    As to the show on the animal channel -- I don't have cable or satellite, so I haven't seen that, but I'm pretty sure it's no longer legal for people to own a lion unless they have some sort of special permission (usually private facilities with animals on display). It's not so surprising if there were small children and a big old lion that there was a tragedy, is it? Even a parent can roll over onto a baby if they sleep together.

  7. I've read A Lion Called Christian- it was such an amazing story. I'm guessing this one is a children's version of the same book? I wonder if it has more pictures, that alone would make me pick it up...

  8. Jeane,

    Yep, I do believe it's just a shorter version of A Lion Called Christian -- same story, fewer details for the youngsters, I'd guess. I haven't managed to read ALCC, yet, so I can't say for sure but it's about the same lion. I haven't seen the photos in ALCC, but Christian the Lion has quite a few. I put mine up on Paperback Swap, regretted it, and went to the homeless shelter store to find another one because I decided it's a keeper.

  9. I should recommend this one to my son. He's in the right age group for this book, and he loves anything to do with cats.

  10. Alyce,

    I'm a sucker for cat books, too. I'm sure your son would love it. I would have as a kid and I certainly did enjoy it as an adult!! :)


Thank you for visiting my blog! I use comment moderation because apparently my blog is a spam magnet. Don't worry. If you're not a robot, your comment will eventually show up and I will respond, with a few exceptions. If a comment smacks of advertising, contains a dubious link or is offensive, it will be deleted. I love to hear from real people! I'm a really chatty gal and I love your comments!