Article by Jennifer Close
Each year, the Florida Reading Association (FRA) chooses eight books for the FRA Children’s Book Award. Children all over the state of Florida read the books or have the books read to them. Once they have heard all the books, the children get to vote on their favorite. Votes are submitted to the Florida Reading Association and a winner is announced. The goal of the program is to encourage young children to get excited about reading by taking part in the voting process.
One of the many hats I wear is that of a library assistant volunteer at my son’s elementary school. As part of my duties, I had the honor of reading one of the eight books to students in the Kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms. The book that I got to read to the children is called Christian, the Hugging Lion by Justin Richardson.
Christian, the Hugging Lion is based on a true story about two friends, Ace and Jon, who purchase a lion cub at Harrod’s in London. The book describes Harrod’s as a place to get anything you could possibly want. Ace and Jon take Christian with them everywhere. He goes for walks on King’s Road and throughout Chelsea, plays at the beach, grabs a bite to eat in a London pub, and runs through the squares. Christian loves to give Ace and Jon great big hugs.
As Christian continues to grow, Ace and Jon realize that an apartment in London is no place for a lion. They fly with him to Africa where they leave him with George Adamson, wildlife conservationist of the Born Free book and movie. Mr. Adamson helps Christian return to the wild and live a healthy life with a pride of lions.
Ace and Jon are sad without Christian though, so they call George Adamson and ask if they can go visit. George tells them they can but that Christian might not recognize them because it had been a year since he had entered the wild. He even had cubs of his own!
They decide to take the chance and fly back to Africa. When they locate Christian, the lion comes running towards them and what do you think he did? Christian gave Ace and Jon a gigantic lion hug. When this moment actually happened, it was captured on video and it is something else to watch!
The watercolor illustrations have a 1970s feeling to them, which keep with the timetable of the true events. This would be a great story to share with children before a trip to London. While they wander the streets of London, they can imagine Christian walking alongside them. It is also a fun read to help your children prepare for an African safari (one of my dream trips!).
If you aren’t headed out on a dream trip to London or Africa, read this book together as a family before visiting the zoo or a wildlife sanctuary. Christian, the Hugging Lion is a lovely tale of true friendship and the fact that it comes in many forms but it is also a great way to start a discussion about wildlife conservation. For adults wanting to learn more about Christians’s story, read A Lion Called Christian: The True Story of the Remarkable Bond Between Two Friends and a Lion.
And for those of you wondering, Christian, the Hugging Lion was indeed the winning book at our school. I would like to think it was my stellar story-telling skills, but it just is a great story.
NOTE: This was the week of celebration in London for the Queen’s Jubilee in London, and the London Olympics are coming soon, making this the year to visit England. You can read another article about England from Monday when Kerry Dexter wrote about a manor house that inspired music.
The photos of London are the property of Jennifer Close. Please respect her copyright. It is the policy of A Traveler’s Library to tell you about affiliate links. If you click on the book cover or book title, you will be able to shop at Amazon and A Traveler’s Library will earn a few cents for each purchase. Thank you.
Jennifer Close is the Family Travel expert at A Traveler’s Library, and as a contributor, regularly fills us in on books that enhance travel with children. You can find more of her family travel adventures at Two Kids and a Map.