We have just finished reading Shanti the Grass-Eating Lion by Paul Sinclair (One World, One People, 2007) – read our full review here – a delightful fable about Shanti, a lion who is a spiritual leader to the people who live in his village in India, and indeed all those whose lives he touches. He doesn’t eat meat so as not to frighten these people, and is able to speak. Far-fetched as all this sounds, it is convincing within its narrative framework and there’s enough magic emanating from the story to make my two pester me with questions as to whether it was true or not and “Does he really just eat grass?”
The quality of the illustrations adds to this too – they are pencil sketches but depicted with such a photographic eye that the appearance of Shanti amongst the people becomes unquestionable. The story is introduced as a story within a story, told by a wise old man to two children who meet him on his arrival at their village. I have to say that we became so caught up in Shanti’s and the villagers’ adventures that we forgot this, until the twist at the very end which served to add fuel to my boys’ conviction that somewhere in India there is a grass-eating lion called Shanti…
The author, Paul Sinclair told me:
“Even though the book is aimed at children aged eight plus, I’ve had parents tell me they have read it to their six-year-olds and they ask a lot of questions and a lot of explanations are necessary, but they are apparently fine with it.
One friend of mine who had read it to her children aged around six told me she had an Indian friend called Ashanti. Once Ashanti phoned and left a message on the answer phone. When the children heard Ashanti had left a message they asked their mother if that was Shanti. Not realising what the children were asking she said yes to which the children asked ‘Does he eat grass?”
So mine aren’t the only ones!
All proceeds from the sale of the book go to the Shanti Lion Children’s Trust, which is very close to Paul’s heart – and he has written a thought-provoking article about his journey to write and publish the story, which appears on the organisation’s website.