The school-age girl in Buitrago’s (Jimmy the Greatest!) latest picture book is left alone a lot because her mother works and her father is gone (but not forgotten). A lion keeps her company as she walks home from the city. With a lion by her side, she is able to buy groceries from the store where her families’ credit is no longer any good. She is able to stay awake when she’s picking up her baby brother from the babysitter’s house.
The lion helps her get out of traffic quickly, keeps her company when she’s making supper, and when she’s waiting for her mom to get off work. Before she goes to sleep, she sends the lion back home to his pedestal on the hill, but she can sleep easy knowing he will come back when she needs him again. The setting of this story is gloomy. The pollution is visible in the city. The family lives in poverty. The three family members sleep on one mattress that lays on a bare floor. The walls are cracked, and the rooms are dark. The family uses bricks as a stepping stool, and they haven’t fixed the broken cabinet in the kitchen. Because the mom is exhausted after her shift, she falls asleep before the girl does. But before the girl goes to bed, she places a yellow wildflower beside her father’s picture.
This is one of those stories that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The lion may represent the girl’s father as they have similar hair. The flower could represent hope or love, and the girl’s reasons for summoning the lion may be because she is scared or lonely. Although all the text is in English, the store signs in the pencil and digital illustrations are in Spanish. Despite her reliance on the lion, the main character in this story is a resourceful child who is a big help to her mother and brother. Being a latchkey kid myself growing up, I appreciated this story and the messages it was trying to convey.
To win a copy of this book, be the first person to email me the translation of the Spanish word “escuela” to [email protected].