How to Hide a Lion written and illustrated by Helen Stephens (published by Alison Green Books, Scholastic) is a funny story about a little girl called Iris and her new friend, a lion.
The lion in question arrived in Iris’s town, quite innocently, looking to buy a hat but for some reason the people of the town were completely terrified and chased him away. He tried to hide in a garden, which is where Iris found him, squashed inside her playhouse.
Iris is the only person who isn’t scared of lions and we follow her and her new chum as she sets about the difficult task of trying to hide a huge lion in her house. They do a pretty good job of keeping him hidden from Iris’s mum and dad until one little slip up causes him to be discovered and chased out of the house.
Back in the town he finds the perfect hiding place and a way of winning the trust of the people. Without giving too much away the story wraps up beautifully, it is completely heart-warming and really made me smile.
I adore the illustrations; the non-uniformity of the drawings have a wonderfully free and playful feel, coupled with the simple yet expressive faces of the characters they make for a truly charming book.
There is a brilliant scene when the lion flees Iris’s house; a double page spread shows the whole street in darkness, shades of black and grey with only a few yellow glows coming from the windows of the houses. Iris and her mum are in the top left of the scene whereas the lion, now looking rather small, is just about to escape out of the bottom right corner, leaping into the unknown. The idea of having to run away in the night and not know where you are going is pretty scary, the dark buildings of the town looming over the lion captures it perfectly.
Night scenes in children’s books are always a bit special, the night is full of mystery, there is another night scene I really love in The Tiger Who Came to Tea. This also happens to be the story that Iris reads to the lion which we loved as it’s one of our favourites. My three year old immediately got excited to see the lion reading a book he owns!
There’s one last detail in this book that grabbed my attention and that is the new baby in Iris’s house. As we have a baby in our house this was a great little addition for my bigger boy to relate to. The illustrations show the baby being carried in a sling too (shared equally between mum and dad) and as we often carry our baby in a sling this added even more relevance, a beautiful touch.
We were lucky enough to see Helen Stephens at NiddFest, a festival celebrating literature and nature set in the beautiful surroundings of Nidderdale, North Yorkshire. We watched as Helen drew the characters from her stories as well as her naughty little dog Peggy.
We were treated to a reading of How to Hide a Lion followed by the latest story, How to Hide a Lion at School. There were plenty of eager volunteers from the children in the audience who helped act out parts of the stories and everyone in the hall joined in with mum’s loud scream when she discovers the lion in the house. I won’t spoil the plot of How to Hide a Lion at School but the audience participation involved two children wrapping another child up in toilet paper!
It was lovely to see how inspired the children were after watching Helen drawing, a couple were invited up on to the stage to draw a lion hiding whilst the audience guessed where they were hidden.
My three year old loves to draw and colour so we had a go at drawing some lions ourselves, here are our best attempts…
Thank you to NiddFest for a wonderful festival and to Helen Stephens for sharing your stories and drawings (and for signing my boy’s book of course).
You can read more about NiddFest on their website here.
Helen Stephens has a lovely website here where you can find out more about her books and illustrations.