Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book Review, Riley and the Dancing Lion

I'm sure one of the things we all want for our children is for them to have a curiosity and desire to find out about the world. Very fortunate kids are able to travel to different countries, where they can learn about other cultures, and discover that home is not all there is. I believe that kids learn tolerance and empathy for others by being exposed to other cultures. They also learn not to be afraid of everyone they can't immediately understand.

If you're not yet ready to jet off around the world with your youngsters, keep an eye out for picture books that let you travel via wonderful children's literature. Like Riley and the Dancing Lion: a journey around Hong Kong. Written by Tania McCartney, and illustrated by Kieron Pratt, this picture book was published by Tania McCartney Press in 2009.

McCartney tells us of Riley, who:

was slurping noodles in Chinatown when firecrackers began popping and fizzing in the dark night sky.

Running outside, Riley glimpses what Dad later tells him is a traditional dancing lion. Like any adventurer worth his salt, Riley immediately sets off in his little red plane to zoom to Hong Kong and search for the lion. With Riley, we search Hong Kong too, incidentally learning quite a lot about this famous city, and meeting several unusual characters. There are many dancing lions, but will Riley ever find the traditional dancing lion he's looking for? McCartney's colourful descriptions and fun alliteration bring Chinese New Year to life, and are perfectly complemented by the colourful pages in this book.

The illustrations are gorgeous. Once the story reaches Hong Kong, Pratt takes McCartney's black and white, travel-type photographs of landmarks, and adds vibrant and quirky art work to them. There are lots of lovely little details happening in the illustrations. I love it when a book has those, because I know that some kids who find it hard to sit still and listen to a story will engage with details in the illustrations.

This is the kind of book a school librarian will love. It would make a great addition to teaching units about festivals and celebrations, like Chinese New Year. It would also make an excellent model for children to use for their own writing. Instead of the predictable "write a report on a country", kids could write their own travel stories based on a city or local area. They could innovate on Kieron Pratt's illustrations by adding their own art work to photos sourced from the internet, or taken by themselves.

You can find out more about Tania McCartney online. Here you'll also be able to peek inside some of Tania's books, find comments from other readers, as well as read about books yet to be published.


  1. This one sounds like me!!

    I love Sasek's 'This is...' series for teaching cultures and geography too. Mind you, I was quite disappointed in the new politically correct 'This is Australia'. What did you think?

  2. Book Chook11 April, 2010

    I don't know the series Jeanne. Where can I find them?

  3. Beautiful book. I like your idea of having students write their own travel adventures. Dreaming of flying around the world is almost as fun as getting to go (and loads more fun than the traditional fact gathering report).

  4. Dawn Riccardi Morris11 April, 2010

    Oh, I wish I knew about this book when I was researching books for my Chinese New Year series! It sounds fantastic. Between the cover and the few words you included, I can tell I would love it. I hope it makes its way across the ocean in time for the next celebration. Thanks, Susan!

  5. Book Chook11 April, 2010

    I agree, Kelly!

  6. Book Chook11 April, 2010

    Dawn, I think you'll find Tania's books are available from the website link in my review.


    You'll like them...I think. They're widely available in indpendent bookshops.

  8. Book Chook12 April, 2010

    I love the art work already!


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