3 years +, Contemporary Books, Tate

A Lion in Paris

Words and illustration by Beatrice Alemagna

Published by Tate

An oversized book with a surreal story of a lion curbing his boredom by touring the streets of Paris. Upon arriving in Paris to find "a job, love, and a future", the Lion is disappointed that despite his size (and the volume of his roar!) that no one seems to take notice of him. The simple story sees the Lion visit the many sights of Paris including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and River Seine. As the lion explores, he becomes more at ease and eventually finds his place within the city.

The story was inspired by the statue of a lion in the Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris and a curiousity to know why the Parisians are so fond of him. What a charming idea!

The absolute highlight of this book is the surreal and panoramic illustrations combining mixed media with collage and a great variety of drawing techniques. Alemagna's use of colour is very restrained but used beautifully to highlight the lion and a small number of features such as baguettes, rosie cheeks, River Seine and sparkling facade of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Distorted perspective, rough pen and pencil strokes, shading and photographic collages. The intensely detailed illustrations are charming and at times retro, reminding me of the work of Pop Art collage artists such as Richard Hamilton. 

The sheer size of this book and landscape orientation makes it really special and possibly a little awkward to hold. The book opens upwards and young readers will find themselves very up and close to the panoramic illustrations as they stretch to turn each page. This is a fantastic experience. Text is kept on the upper page of the book and the intensely detailed illustration is on the lower page.  The minimal text and clear focus on the illustration allows for the story to be enhanced in the minds of readers.

This oversized gem of a book conveys the feeling of being a stranger in a new city and is perfect for your imaginative little reader. This book is really quirky. I love it!