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The butterfly lion ISBN: 9780006751038 (ppbk)
Morpurgo, Michael
Published by: 
  • Collins, 1996 (ISBN: 9780001856172 (hdbk))
  • (ISBN: 9780006751038 (ppbk))

Written in the first person, the story tells of Michael running away from his hated school as a ten year old. On his way to the rail station, he meets an old lady who takes him into her large country house for tea and a ghostly tale. She tells of herself and her only love Bertie, how they met when he ran away from school, how Bertie told her of his childhood in South Africa and the white lion cub that he rescued and made into a pet. When Bertie was sent to school in England, the lion had been sold to the owner of a circus, and years later, during the First World War, Bertie had been reunited with his lion friend in France. He and his sweetheart brought the lion back to England after the war, and after the lion died, they spent twenty years digging a chalk lion into the hillside. When the lion picture was finished, Bertie and his wife saw that blue butterflies came to drink on the chalk surface after rain - thus creating the 'butterfly lion'. When Michael gets back to school, he discovers the old lady he met has been dead for years, and the house is derelict. But he promises his ghostly friend that he will keep the lion clean and white. A powerful story of love and loss and pain, beautifully written. Appropriately shadowy chalk or charcoal illustrations.
Age: 9+