Lion Practice by Emma Carlisle, published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Our first read of Emma Carlisle’s wonderful Lion Practice coincided with the development of our daughter’s keen interest in lions. This week, after mentioning we might take her to London Zoo, she asked “Can I feed the baby lions and pat their manes? I promise I will be very careful.” Looking at my hesitant expression, she pointed at her mum and exclaimed: “Mummy fed lions when she was a little girl, didn’t you?”

Make-believe play is probably our three year old daughter’s favourite pastime. She can spend hours engaged in preparing feasts for elaborate parties with her cuddlies, rescuing Anna and Olaf from Hans while trapped in an ice palace, or nursing ‘sea-otters’ and baby owls back to good health.

Lion Practice is a celebration of a young child’s imagination. Emma Carlisle’s warm and bright crayon and pencil illustrations are perfectly matched by a sweetly precocious first-person narrative, spoken by a small girl called Laura who tells us she loves to practice.

She enjoys nothing more than practicing the behaviour of a diverse range of animals, and we see that is accompanied in her imagination by an energetic, swirling menagerie. She bounces alongside kangaroos, splashes in the swimming pool with a crocodile and squawks in the supermarket like a hungry parrot.

She scoots past her mother’s hopeful suggestion that she practices being something quiet, like a mouse – for nothing is as fun as practicing your ROAR and today is the day for lion practice.

What exactly do lions do? According to Laura they walk on all fours, have a very messy mane, pounce on daddies and roar very loudly. So loudly in fact that Laura wakes up her baby brother, causing him to cry and her parents to get cross.

Forlorn, she sits plaintively on her garden swing until her mum and dad come out to find her. Laura is sorry, and her parents offer her a ‘big bear hug’. They persuade her back inside with the offer of an extra big dinner and lots of bubbles in her bath, essential requirements for a lion.

After her bath, Laura declares that lions don’t wear pyjamas and her parents tell her she can be a cheeky monkey sometimes. Hmmm……a cheeky monkey? “I’m going to practice being one of those tomorrow”.