"The Lion and The Bird," by Marianne Dubuc; Enchanted Lion Books, unpaged
I was looking out my bedroom window the other day, watching the birds hanging out at our bird feeder, when I noticed a cat — a cat that was intently monitoring the feathered activity around the feeder. All of a sudden the seed-stuffed chickadees and sparrows spied the crouching feline, and off they flew. I know that because cats are cats, well, they pretty much want to hunt anything with wings; but as I watched the cat saunter away, I wondered, has there ever been a cat that treated a bird as a friend instead of a quick snack?
Not surprisingly, I found the answer at the library. In this week's sweet, sweet picture book "The Lion and the Bird," I was introduced to a very special lion.
One day while the lion is working in his garden (he's clad in bib overalls, of course), he discovers a wounded bird. Now if I had been watching a documentary on television's "Animal Planet," I probably would have changed the channel at this point. But there is nothing to worry about in this story because the lion's first response upon seeing the hurt bird is, "Oh! Poor little thing!"
He quickly bandages the bird's damaged wing; but then, when they both realize that the little bird won't be able to join his flock for the trip south, the lion nestles his new friend on top of his furry head and carries him home.
There are very few words in this story, but through a series of adorable illustrations, readers know exactly what happens over the next few months.
Autumn then winter descends upon the lion's surroundings, but the lion and the bird keep busy. They sit by the fire while the lion reads stories; they brush their teeth and beak together; when it starts snowing, they ride a sled and go ice-fishing. And then one day a flower pops through the snow. The call of spring, as well as the return of the bird's feathered companions, means just one thing: it's time for the bird to leave his caretaker and friend, the lion.
Over the next few pages little readers — and big readers, too — will understand the lion's feelings of loneliness but also the truth that life keeps moving on.
His garden starts to grow, and while "summer passes slowly, softly," the lion spends time reading and fishing. Then autumn arrives again, and the lion wonders about his small friend. To find out if the lion gets to see his avian pal again, check out this wonderful book. It is such a gem, conveying its charming story quietly, and oh, so sweetly. And best of all? I am reassured that once in a while, a cat and a bird can be friends.