Beatrice Alemagna, A Lion in Paris
English edition first published 2014 by Tate Publishing (First published 2006), 32p
Sometimes I wonder what will happen when Ema grows up and she won’t need me to read her stories or even recommend something… I guess we won’t have so many picture books around but I will definitely continue to buy some or borrow them from the library.
It was real delight to read another book by Beatrice Alemagna. She is so sensitive and sophisticated, so original. A Lion in Paris is an over-sized book with the text placed on the top pages and the beautiful artwork underneath as it opens vertically looking like an artist’s portfolio case. It tells the story of a young, curious lion that being bored at home, in the savanna, decided to seek excitement in the city.
No luggage and a little scared, the lion took the train and arrived in Paris, in Gare de Lyon. It was his first time there and his biggest surprise was that nobody seemed to be terrified by him. Not even when he roared to make people notice him. Happy to be accepted we shortly notice the lion drinking espresso at Café de Flore and pondering why the people were hurrying around with a kind of sword under their arm (the famous French baguettes).
The urban landscapes and Paris’s iconic buildings fascinate the lion. He visits Centre Georges Pompidou, The Louvre where Mona Lisa seems to have eyes only for him, Montmartre, then climbs to the top of Eiffel Tower and walks along River Seine.
The city that had appeared so dreary and frightening and grey in the morning now seemed to be smiling at him with all its windows.
Alemagna combines drawing with painting and collage to capture the charm and the tempo of the city. The lion likes Paris and decides to stay. At a big crossroads, he sees a plinth and realizes the place is perfect for him.
The lion in the story was inspired by Lion of Belfort, a sculpture by Frédéric Bartholdi (sculptor of The Statue of Liberty) that is located in the center of Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris. It symbolizes the French resistance during the Siege of Belfort but Alemagna thinks the Parisians are fond of this lion because he looks happy.