Originally published in 1959 and out of print for two decades, this collection of very short stories chronicles Ellen’s relationship– complete with two-way conversations–with her floppy stuffed lion. Ellen’s temperament is a bit like Christopher Robin’s (though her appearance is a clone of Harold, from Harold and the Purple Crayon
fame), but her lion is a no-nonsense, tougher-minded Pooh, with the voice of reason and reality to counter Ellen’s high-flying imagination. The stories range from fear of the dark and being sad to playing doctor, being a fairy princess, and dealing with a new toy that almost replaces lion.
Parents will find the subtly droll stories as entertaining as children, and a child who reads chapter books will find especially rewarding.
Crockett Johnson, creator of the 1955 classic Harold and the Purple Crayon
, also wrote a lovely, nonsensically philosophical collection of 12 stories about a little girl named Ellen and her conversations with her stuffed lion. Originally published in 1959, Ellen’s Lion
has an old-fashioned feel, but its explorations of child logic and imagination are universal and fresh, the perspective authentically childlike. In one story, Ellen pretends she is terrified of her pet lion and calls the police. The lion becomes impatient and annoyed. Ellen feels guilty: "I should have asked you if you ate people before I called a policeman," she says. The lion tells her she didn’t use a real telephone. "’But I called a real policeman,’ said Ellen." In another story, "Sad Interlude," Ellen displays sympathy for her "poor sad old lion." The lion is indignant:
"I’m never sad and never happy, never hungry or never full, never foolish or clever, or good or bad, or this or that, or anything else you imagine me to be—-"
"You poor thing," Ellen said, slowly, shaking her head. "You haven’t any mother, either, have you?"
"Now you are being ridiculous," the lion said.
Children will have no trouble keeping up as the story slips from the real to the imaginary and back again. Out of print for two decades, this winning chapter book, complete with orange-hued, Harold
-style illustrations, is sure to charm readers young and old. (Ages 5 to 8) --Karin Snelson