The Three Happy Lions is the third book in this classic series by husband and wife team, Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin. First published in 1959 and republished this year by Scallywag Press, this gentle story has a charming retro appeal to both the text and illustrations, however the message it conveys is both important and timeless.
There was once ONE happy Lion…he was joined by a second happy lion and in this story the two happy lions welcome a baby happy lion. Their happiness is now complete and the two proud parents are delighted with their new cub. He is named Francois, after their best friend, the zoo keeper’s son. All is well but then, for the first time in his life, the Happy Lion starts to worry. He wonders what the future holds for the baby lion. What job should he do when he grows up to keep him happy?
Various possibilities are discussed and dismissed by the two happy lions until a rich lady visiting the zoo decides that Francois will be her pet. When this does not work out well due to his increasing size Francois joins the circus where he struggles in his efforts to roar and be scary because he likes people and does not want to frighten them. Finally he returns to the zoo to do what he has always wanted. He will be a gardening assistant alongside Francois the keeper’s son, tending and nurturing the flowers and trees.
As soon as I opened this book and started to read I was a little girl again, transported back in time, not so much by the words initially, but most definitely by the illustrations. The overall look of this book is distinctive. The artwork by Duvoisin, although using a limited palette, is bold, colourful and graphic in appearance with much detail for children to pore over. There are several spreads in black and white and there is a real feel of movement on some of the pages. The animals are depicted with humour and a child friendly appeal but have a realistic appearance too, it is beautifully done.
The French settings and the occasional French words are a brilliant way of introducing young children to the language and culture of another country in a natural manner. It is the book’s thoughtful message that adds a greater depth to this charming story. Francois the young lion does not want to conform to what many would think of as the way he ‘should’ behave and live his life. He learns what matters most to him and what makes him happy and fulfilled and is, eventually, able to achieve this. That his loving parents support him in this decision makes the ending a supremely happy one.
As you can probably tell I am fond of this lovely book and am delighted that Scallywag Press have been wise enough to enable a new generation of readers to meet the happy lions and enjoy their adventures. The publishers have a range of activities and teaching resources linked to The Three Happy Lions on their website which include an audio of some of the French vocabulary. Love My Books has an excellent selection of suggested activities linked to the book on their website plus a video of the first story in the series read aloud. This would be a perfect book for children in early years settings and the infant stage of school but does have, I think, an appeal for many.
I should like to thank Laura Smythe and Scallywag Press for providing my review copy.