Jenny's Picture Book Review: 'A Lion in the Meadow' by Margaret Mahy and Jenny Williams

First an apology - the edition I'm talking about here is out of print and apparently the original swirly, summer-of-love, 60s illustrations are lost and so it will never be resurrected. There is an edition available with new illustrations also by Jenny Williams, but compared to the original and judging by the cover, it is looks very average. My copy is from the mid-70s and is one of those slight Puffin volumes barely more than a pamphlet. Having seen the current asking price on Amazon Marketplace I shall take good care of it. 

A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy and Jenny Williams

So, another review, another Lion-based Odyssey.  Baby Bloomfield can spot an illustrated  lion at a hundred paces - we're working on the remaining 99.99% of the animal kingdom.

 
A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy and Jenny Williams

'A Lion in a Meadow' is a simple (cautionary) tale (to parents) of how not to manipulate a child's imagination. Terrified of a lion in the meadow, a little boy seeks the assistance of mother, who gives him a matchbox with a tiny dragon inside to scare the lion away. But the tiny dragon turns into an enourmous dragon the little boy is even more terrified. 

A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy and Jenny Williams

The mother, looking suitably exhausted, explains,
'But there wasn't a real dragon...It was just a story I made up.'
'It turned out to be true after all,' said the little boy. 'You should have looked in the match box first.' 
'That is how it is,' said the lion.'Some storied are true, and some aren't....'

A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy and Jenny Williams
A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy and Jenny Williams

It's all quite conceptually complex for a kids book - it concludes with mother and son reading a book, open at the letter 'L' with the lion sitting on the rug next to them (the little boy and lion having become allies against the dragon) - but all the more satisfying for it. And the illustrations capture this slightly trippy vibe. Bold swirls and pinks, oranges and purples reflect the little boy's imaginings (and are mirrored by the mother's clothes and interior decor): really beautiful. 

A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy and Jenny Williams