Review Blog

Feb 23 2012

The lion sleeps tonight by Solomon Linda

cover image

Ill. by Shane Devries. Scholastic, 2011. ISBN 9781 74169 807 7.
(Ages: All) Picture book. Music. Sing along. This song, originally called Mbube (Zulu for Lion), then Wimoweh, was penned in the 1920's, finally being recorded by the songwriter Solomon Linda and his band, The Evening Birds in 1939. Since then it has been recorded over and over again, becoming a hit in the 1960's for British band, The Tokens, the single getting to number one. Since then it has been covered by, amongst others, The Stylistics, Ladysmith and R.E.M., and more recently the Soweto Gospel Choir. It is a perennial favourite known to everyone, particularly after its use in the Walt Disney film, The Lion King in 1994.
The catchy words and easy feel good tune will be a treat for classes to sing along, dance, clap their hands and listen. The CD in the cover gives the music and the song, then the song without the music, so allowing a variety of uses within the classroom. The hard cover book contains the outline of the words, although many are repeated on the CD so teachers will be advised to plan ahead.
If the song is well known, the illustrations certainly will be soon. The wonderful, exotic, colourful illustrations by emerging artist, Shane Devries will thrill the book's audience. The animals splash across the pages, small dramas are hidden amongst the leaves of the forest, humour abounds, and colour and movement are paramount. The publisher has cleverly shown Devries' initial drawings in the end papers, giving readers a look at how an illustrator perfects his drawings, showing them in their infancy before colour is applied.
It is great to see another of Devries' work after loving Wang Wang and Funi (by Phil Cummings) which was published last year.
A long list of authors for the song is included, Solomon Linda being the writer of both music and words, then Luigi Creatore translating the words into English, while Hugo Peretti and George David Weiss were also involved with the initial work for The Tokens. It is good to see all acknowledged for their work.
Fran Knight

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