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The Butterfly Lion


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/ Key title ILLUSTRATED BY CHRISTIAN BIRMINGHAM. A lyrical and moving tale of a young boy growing up in Africa, and his lifelong friendship with a white lion. / Michael is a hugely successful author on the Collins list. / This is a moving novel, set in Africa and England, during the First World War. / This title has sold over 150,000 copies in its current form. / Rebranding this successful title coincides with the paperback edition of Dear Olly.

About the Author

Michael divides his time between his writing and running Farms for City Children, a charity which each year takes up to 3,000 children to a working farm for a week. Michael and his wife Clare were awarded MBEs this year for their work with the charity. Before the first farm opened 22 years ago, Morpurgo was a teacher and his knowledge of children's experiences, plus his experience of Farms enrich his writing enormously. Michael Morpurgo has won the Whitbread Children's Book Award, and the Smarties Book Prize.


Winner of a Smarties Gold Medal, Morpurgo's (The Wreck of the Zanzibar) cozy, well-executed British novel may not survive the jump across the ocean‘the climax depends on a casual reference likely to be lost on American readers. The story, about a boy who gives his white lion immortality, moves gracefully through frequent switches from past to present, from first to third person, from the English countryside to pre-WWI South Africa. A boy runs away from his strict boarding school ("It was a diet of Latin and stew and rugby and detentions... and chilblains... and semolina pudding"), only to meet an old woman who invites him in for tea. There, fed delicious scones, he looks out the window upon the hillside to see a huge shape of a lion, switching from white to blue. How did it come to be there? The old woman tells him the remarkable story of Bertie, who as a boy found a white lion in Africa and was later obliged to give him to a European circus. Magic enters the novel at an appropriate moment, and the conclusion is sweet. But unless readers can picture "the famous White Horse on the hillside at Uffington" (an enormous, ancient image carved into chalky ground), they will have difficulty imagining an adult Bertie and his wife carving out a similar picture of the white lion or of blue butterflies alighting on it en masse to "drink on the chalk face"‘concepts critical to the book's conclusion. Ages 8-12. (May)

Gr 4-8‘Elements of fantasy and fiction are woven into this fast-paced adventure. A student runs away from boarding school and meets an elderly lady, whom he later discovers is a ghost. She tells the story of another boy, Bertie, who grew up long ago in Africa and eventually became her husband. Lonely and neglected by his parents, he rescues an abandoned white lion cub and cares for it, gradually forming a close bond. After some years the boy's parents abruptly decide to send him to school in England and sell the lion. Bertie attempts to save the animal by returning it to the jungle, but it has lost its ability to survive in the wild and returns to the only home it has known. A French circus owner buys the lion, and the boy vows never to forget him. Twelve years later, Bertie fights in World War I and is decorated for rescuing wounded comrades. In a small French town he finally finds his lion, starving and near death, and the two friends are reunited. Heartened by the woman's tale, the student returns to school. This touching story is well written and emotionally satisfying. Readers will be drawn to this fascinating tale of a unique friendship between boy and beast. In addition to being a successful adventure story, the book demonstrates the value of character‘of keeping promises, standing up for one's beliefs, and courage under fire.‘Gebregeorgis Yohannes, San Francisco Public Library, CA

"The Butterfly Lion is unique among animals and books, and will touch all hearts - both young and old." Virginia McKenna, Born Free Foundation

Praise for Michael Morpurgo:
"A master storyteller at his best" The Sunday Times

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