Lafcadio is the story of a lion who begins life as an ordinary lion might, but when he encounters humans in the form of hunters his life begins to take a new direction. Ultimately a man from the circus convinces Lafcadio to accompany him to human civilization, luring him with the promise of marshmallows.
Readers of all ages enjoy Lafcadio’s first impressions and behavior upon his arrival in the city, as well as his hilarious obsession with marshmallows! The juxtaposition of lion and hunter behavior never fails to make me laugh–nor anyone to whom I have read the story!
Lafcadio gradually becomes so involved with humans that he is confused about whether he is actually a lion or a man. When Lafcadio returns to the jungle with a group of men, this time as a hunter himself, he literally comes face-to-face with his dilemma. The final pages are open-ended, allowing the reader to project all sorts of possibilities for Lafcadio’s future.
For teachers and parents alike the ending offers a great opportunity to lead younger readers into prediction techniques for ‘what will happen next…’ The variety of themes in the story also provide terrific discussion springboards about ‘what makes you who you are,’ ‘what do you think about the way the jungle and the human world overlap in the story?’ and ‘do you think Lafcadio decided to live as a lion or as a man and why?’
Shel Silverstein is perhaps best known for books like The Giving Tree and poetry collections such as Where the Sidewalk Ends. Lafcadio was Silverstein’s first children’s book. My mother read it to me, I have read it multiple times to my children and I love reading it aloud with my 3rd and 4th grade classes as well. The laugh-out-loud humor runs seamlessly alongside deeper underlying ideas about who we are and how we relate to the world around us.
A sometimes forgotten treasure, Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back is a fantastic read-aloud or independent reading selection all the way through 6th grade. (I have used it as a read-aloud with all those ages and have had complete success with it.) If you have not read it, find a copy and ENJOY!!