by Emma Middleton, illustrated by Briony Stewart
As Tom and Tilly are leaving to walk their dog, Dad calls out to them with a strange warning, ‘You never know who might come knocking with his giant paw.’
It is a playful threat, one that Tom and Tilly heed not in fear, but in hope. While Dad is doing grown-up stuff like reading the newspaper, supervising their chores and settling down for a nap, they go about their own day, but the warning is never far from their minds.
‘Will he come? Won’t he come? Will he come and play?’ They look about in nervous expectation, peering around the corner, scouring the living room and marking out hiding places in the eventuality that the lion might show up.
What’s great about Emma’s story is that she has brilliantly capitalised on the most delicious aspect of child’s play – anticipation. It is the spine-tingling thrill before a tickle or the heart-thumping excitement just before being found. We have all experienced it. For Tom and Tilly, this wonderful feeling lasts almost the entire day.
The anticipation is contagious and the illustrations by Briony Stewart compliment the cadence beautifully. In every scene there is a lion hidden in plain sight – a cushion cover pattern, an article in the newspaper, a wallpaper motif. Your kids will love picking them off the pages.
My favourite illustrations, however, are of the lion that may or may not come - a regal hind paw and an unmistakable lion’s tail dragging through a field of dandelions (of course!). A luscious mane passing by the window, a very leonine shadow at the front door.
Those following Briony on social media would have also experienced some anticipation as she shared her work in progress, sketching roaring outlines and choosing ochre pencil colour palettes.
The other reason why I love this book is because it celebrates Dads. Sure, there are a bunch of Dad-centric books in the market, but the numbers are still paltry compared to the ever-nurturing and loving mother who finds her place so naturally in picture books. In our home, the best part of Daddy’s day is ‘milk and a story’, that winding down after dinner and before bath and bedtime. Reclining on the watermelon beanbag, Daddy and Seroja lean into each other as they go through book after book.
As you may have guessed, they are thoroughly enjoying their latest book, and who wouldn't? It is a lovely portrayal of a father who hints to his children of something magical, observes from a distance as a mystical beast is magnified in their minds, then grants them that magic with playful abandon before finally tucking them in to bed, leaving them to dream of adventures to come.
The Lion in our Living Room is published by Affirm Press.
Learn more about author Emma Middleton at www.emmamiddleton.com and illustrator Briony Stewart at www.brionystewart.com.