I’ve decided to write a series of short recommendations/critiques/summaries of my favourite books. These are titles you can perhaps purchase on one day delivery, or Amazon audible, to keep you busy during these uncertain times.
On this occasion, I plan on telling you about one of my all-time dearest children’s book. I grew up inhaling Michael Morpurgo’s various works but one, The Butterfly Lion, was always my favourite. It might not necessarily have the grandiosity of his work War horse, but the book is an emotional read, especially for a children’s book, and has charm coming out of its ears.
From the relationship between Bertie and Millie, the two human protagonists in the story, to the bond betwixt both of them and their lion, the book is nothing but heartwarming. Bertie is a young boy growing up on his family farm in Africa. When his father shoots a lioness, Bertie adopts her white lion cub.
Bertie, whilst sneaking away from school to try and see his lion, meets a young girl named Millie. The whole story is actually narrated by Millie to a young boy in the present. Millie and Bertie become close friends until the First World War divides them. Bertie wins the Victoria Cross for valour when he saves two men and, upon reading of his exploits in a newspaper, Millie tracks him down.
Bertie and Millie find out that their lion was part of a circus and, although the circus has shut down, they rescue him from his owner. Bertie and Millie move to England, talking the lion with them, and complete their love story’s arc, getting married. When the lion dies, they are both greatly saddened, and Bertie carves a chalk lion onto the hillside. The white chalk lion attracts butterflies in droves and this gives the book its elegant title.
There are other nuances to the story that I have decided not to include in my narrative; however, this is the gist of the storyline. It is a beautifully crafted tale and Michael Morpurgo is a true artisan of children’s novels. If your children are bored in lockdown and need a read then this novel is a terrific option.