Christian the Lion

Written by Anthony (Ace) Bourke and John Rendall
Illustrated with photographs by the authors

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Several years ago, the world was captivated by a YouTube video and then a television special about Christian the Lion (see clips below). Christian’s remarkable story began in the late 1960s in London, where the lion cub was actually for sale in a department store! Christian was adopted by two young men named Ace and John, who raised him in their London apartment until he got too big to live with them any longer. Ace and John realized that Christian needed to live in the wild and learn what it was like to really be a lion, They arranged for him to move to a wildlife reserve in Africa run by George Adamson. Christian was successfully introduced into the wild, but as the joyous reunion in the YouTube video proved, he did not forget his human friends from London.


Ace Bourke and John Rendall have done a beautiful job of turning their story into a picture book that is right on target for second-grade readers. The book is written from Christian’s point of view and is set up as a scrapbook. The pages are filled with photos taken by the authors during their time with Christian, and Christian narrates his story through explanatory text and captions. This approach allows for easy comprehension of the story and makes an already fascinating tale even more appealing for young readers. The text also includes important facts about lions and how they live. This is a great book for anyone interested in animals and their bond with humans and it would make a valuable addition to a second-grade classroom library.

If you can’t see this video, click here.
Video description: “In 1969 a young Australian, John Rendall and his friend Ace Bourke, bought a small lion cub from Harrods pet department, which was then legal. ‘Christian’ was kept in the basement of a furniture shop on the Kings Road in Chelsea, the heart of the swinging sixties. Loved by all, the affectionate cub ate in a local restaurant, played in a nearby graveyard, but was growing fast…

A chance encounter with Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna led to a new life for Christian. He came to live in a huge enclosure and to sleep in a caravan at their Surrey home. Then in 1971 he was flown to Kenya, his ancestral home, and returned to the wild by lion-man George Adamson. Nine months later in 1972, John and Ace returned to Kora in Kenya. This clip is of their reunion at that time.”

Video set to music:

If you can’t see this video, click here.

  • ChristianTitle: Christian the Lion
  • Authors: Anthony (Ace) Bourke and John Rendall
  • Illustrated with photographs by the authors
  • Reviewer: Joanne Mattern
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 2009, 28 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-8050-9182-3
  • Genre: Nature

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