Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

A Hungry Lion

Or

A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

by Lucy Ruth Cummins


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A Hungry Lion

Or

A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Review posted May 30, 2016.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Picture Books

The title alone of this book makes me laugh. I think the book is probably a bit too violent (though all off-stage) for preschoolers, but could be very fun to book talk in the elementary schools. (“Who knows what ‘Dwindling’ means?”)

I once had a co-worker who especially enjoyed picture books where someone gets eaten, and I’ve gained an appreciation for them myself. In fact, I’ve got a Pinterest board with this theme. Such books are especially good when they add an unexpected element.

In this book, the beginning is sweetness and light:

Once upon a time there was a hungry lion, a penguin, a turtle, a little calico kitten, a brown mouse, a bunny with floppy ears and a bunny with un-floppy ears, a frog, a bat, a pig, a slightly bigger pig, a woolly sheep, a koala, and also a hen.

The assortment of animals on each page rapidly dwindles.

But just when you think there has been off-stage violence… we see that the animals were preparing a surprise party and a large cake for the lion!

But alas… the cake does not, actually, stop the off-stage violence.

And then who should show up fashionably late to the party but a “really ravenous T. Rex”!

The lone survivor from the original assortment of animals is a satisfying surprise.

Like I said, I wouldn’t necessarily use this with preschoolers or any child who will be distressed by the sweet animals who disappear. But a child who enjoys I Want My Hat Back would be a good audience for this book, or any child who is learning to make inferences and read between the lines (and pictures). Though it’s better if the inferences they make do not distress them – so this is a bit better for kids who enjoy a little cynicism!

There’s no real moral to this story, except perhaps that you should think twice before planning a birthday party for a hungry lion. Or maybe that bullies should beware that there’s always someone bigger. Or maybe that sometimes hiding is the wisest plan. But moral or no, I place this picture book firmly in the “Delightfully Silly” category. It makes me laugh.