Marianne Dubuc, The Lion and the Bird. Translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Printed 2015 by Book Island (first published 2013 by Enchanted Lion Books), 64p
When I read a story to my daughter she sits next to me, following the pictures, my face expressions and the inflections of my voice. She sometimes interrupts asking questions or offering her own explanations but usually this is our reading ritual. However, with The Lion and the Bird I had an extraordinary surprise. It was for the first time when soon after I had read the first pages she wanted to have the book and read the last page. Extremely preoccupied to assure herself that the end of the story leaves the little bird and the lion in harmony, Ema was tempted to skip all the details in the second half of the book. Her participation and empathy were amazing.
Marianne Dubuc’s illustrations create the magic we need when reading. There is warmth and finesse from the first pages, although this a quiet book that leaves room for reflection.
One chilly autumn day, Lion was working in his garden when he found a wounded little bird. As the bird’s flock was just flying south for the winter and she couldn’t join it because of the broken wing, Lion welcomed Bird in his house and offered his hospitality. They enter a routine that nurtures a beautiful friendship. All winter they eat together, read near the fire and Bird sleeps in a slipper near Lion’s bed.
The tempo is slow, the two friends enjoying the time spent together.
A winter that was white. And cold. But the cold isn’t so bad when you’re together.
The inserted blank pages measure time and emotions. Theirs and ours.
When spring came the flock arrived home and Bird said good-bye to Lion who returned to a lonely existence. As in life, when there are moments when no words are needed, the illustrations capture Lion’s loneliness. He misses his little friend but friendship is also about knowing when to let go. Lion’s attitude is impressive; there is melancholy in his eyes as seasons pass by and he looks at the sky but wisdom in his actions.
And one autumn day he hears a familiar sound, the music of friendship. Bird returns for a winter together.
There is so much beauty in the simplicity of this story and so much wisdom in the tender relationship of the characters. We need mind and soul to achieve true friendship and loyalty to keep it forever. As seasons come and go, once in a while friendship is tested by time and distance but honest connections overcome vulnerabilities.