How to be a Lion
Meet Leonard - a lion like no other. Leonard's best friend is Marianne, a duck.
But lions chomp ducks... Don't they?
A story about what happens when a lion meets a duck - and finding the courage to be yourself.
This book was written in response to aspects of the Trump agenda... to think about how we address notions of masculinity in that light... not to constrain, but to broaden what masculinity can mean. Strength and sensitivity are not mutually exclusive. I've written more at the bottom of the page, and you can find a Guardian article here.
How to be a Lion is the winner of Oscar's Book Prize 2019, selected by the children's laureate Lauren Child and a jury including Sarah Brown. It was also selected as one of Amazon.com's best books of 2018 as well as being an NPR great choice for 2018. It is an EB White Read Aloud Honor Book.
Sunday Times Book of the Week - 'This witty, resonant picturebook is a manual for anyone’s life, young or old.'
Kirkus starred review - '...Readers will see an alternative male role model in Leonard: a strong-looking lion who thinks for himself, choosing creativity and friendship over superficial toughness. Author/illustrator Vere's illustrations are sturdy in their rough black outlines and large swaths of muted color, but they're evocative, too, in Leonard's expressiveness and the predominantly orange/saffron palette that conjures the atmosphere of an African savanna. Positive role models showing boys how to be a whole person are few and far between these days. This marvellous book triumphs in that essential job.'
School Library Journal - 'Children will feel empowered after reading such a deliberate story of unyielding strength and self-awareness. Thoughtful and provocative words to live by.'
Publishers Weekly - 'A gentle, Ferdinand-like soul… . Vere’s fable makes a watertight—and charming—case for ignoring the pressures of conformity.'
Teen Librarian - ...a beautiful meditation on the power of being different, ignoring the herd and being true to your beliefs, yourself and your friends... It is usually extremely hard to find a picture book of the year but for me, I think, it may be How to be a Lion!
The Bookseller - Leonard is a lion like no other: he loves poetry and daydreaming and his best friend is a duck. But how will the pair react when their way of life is threatened and the other lions insist Leonard should be fierce? Framed by a glowing palette of burnt yellows and oranges, and infused with humour and warmth, this thought-provoking fable celebrates courage, individuality and the power of words. A perfect book for all thinking lions (and all clever ducks, too).
Please consider buying at your local bookstore... alternatively;
This is the story of what happens when a lion meets a duck...
It's also a book written to counter the worst of what Trump stands for.
I wrote it immediately after the 2016 US election campaign. One belligerent, bullying voice was getting all the attention. He's now the figurehead of the free world, setting a disastrous example... his endless noise will inevitably filter down to children and they, inevitably, will learn from it, and possibly, learn to become like it.
I hope I've written a book that counters that voice, and the intolerance behind it. I think it's time we celebrate the power of quieter, kinder, more thoughtful voices (anyone who's read Susan Cain's 'Quiet' may recognise this call). We need to celebrate friendship and unity, not enmity and division.
I also wanted to address so called ‘toxic’ masculinity. If you remember, some truly awful quotes relating to women came from Trump. We need to demonstrate a different idea of masculinity. One that doesn’t bully and belittle. Masculinity contains so much more than what he projects. 'How to be a Lion' tries to show that being gentle, considerate and exhibiting a sensitive side are not weaknesses... they’re part of being a strong, well rounded, thinking, human being. These are lessons that need to be taught when children are young. Intolerance is hard to unlearn once you’ve grown into it.
How to be a Lion is a book about gentleness, and the power of words. Most importantly, it's a book about thinking for yourself and standing up for who you are.
(If all this sounds pretty didactic - I hope that the book isn't.)