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Chloe and the Lion

Chloe and the Lion jacketOnce in a while, I see a book that makes me think, “I sure would like to hear the committee discuss this one!” This is one of those books.

I think the committee will appreciate the sly meta-picture book details–the direct address of the narrator, the comic schtick when author Mac fires illustrator Adam, the clever way the illustrations change depending on who is drawing them and the rapport between illustrator and author. The plasticine main characters are carefully photographed (I like those shadows) and the hipster  illustrator and buttoned-up author interact well with each other on the page, providing a high number of giggles per page. The speech bubbles are color coded with different typeface for each character. Both Chloe and the lion are humorously yet poorly drawn by Mac after he fires the second illustrator, allowing the reader to see the value of a talented illustrator. I was fascinated by the diorama/set of the story. It reminded me of puppet theaters, and it was easy to imagine the parts sliding back and forth to create the setting.

And yet.

Sometimes a story’s cleverness is too much–too much winking at the reader, especially the adult reader. Will it be more comfortable on a college children’s lit syllabus or in a stack of sly books by Sendak and Klassen? The committee will have to decide if this is one of those books. They will also have to decide if all the different styles of art (plasticine, painting sets, cartoony Chloe, good and bad illustration) work together well. The other question I have about this one is how well it stands up to multiple readings for children. My students have left it on the shelf, despite my enthusiastic reading of it.

Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.



  1. I have four kids (ages 2 to 9) who all share a deep, deep love of CHLOE AND THE LION. I love it too, of course, but it definitely stands up to repeated readings in this house!

  2. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Glad to hear it–what do they like about it? What draws them back to the book? The humor? Which story arc or all of them?

  3. Bill Wright says:

    My class loves this one! We are in the middle of our annual mock Caldecott, and this is one of the top favorites at the moment. Not sure how it will stand up during discussions, but I am pretty confident this will at least be one of the honors.

  4. Robin Smith says:

    How old are your students, Bill? I haven’t made my final list for my class’s Mock Caldecott yet and am struggling with my list.
    Robin Smith

  5. The humor draws them back, definitely, but also the Mac/Adam story arc. I’ve read that some people think that kids won’t get what’s going on, story-structure-wise,but my kids got it from the first reading, and still think the author-and-illustrator-as-characters thing is very, very funny.

  6. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    My students definitely loved the humor. I have been surprised that they have not been drawn back to it the way they are to other funny books. If I add it to my mock Caldecott list, it will be interesting to see if the closer scrutiny allows them to appreciate the book more. That deeper scrutiny can cut both ways on the committee (real and mock), but it almost always allows the reader to appreciate the structure and work that goes into creating a book.
    Thanks for your comments. This is a wild card book for me–if someone on the committee really loves it and is willing to take the committee through the book page by page, frame by frame, story arc by story arc, it could surprise me. However, if the committee does not appreciate the humor or sees it as a book for adults more than for children…
    See what I said about wanting to be a fly on the wall?

    Again, thanks.

  7. Thinking about this a bit: I wonder if it’s more of an on-the-couch book than an in-front-of-the-class book. There may be a lot that is caught with close (very close) readings, stuff that’s missed with readings from (literally) farther away. The way the different illustrations work together, and the different story arcs they represent — maybe the subtle genius is missed when you’re more than 6 feet away?

  8. Bill Wright says:


    I have third graders. I piece my list together from various online lists…this site, the Fuse 8 blog, and Allen County Public Library’s list are my main sources, plus of course recommendations from my librarian friends! Our list right now is: A Home For Bird, Another Brother, Baby Bear Sees Blue, Bear Has a Story to Tell, Boot and Shoe, Chloe and the Lion, Extra Yarn, Green, Homer, I Have a Dream, The Insomniacs, Jazz Age Josephine, Machines Go to Work in the City, Ocean Sunlight, Oh No!, Out on the Prairie, Step Gently Out, This is Not My Hat, Unspoken, and Z is for Moose. We had some more that got weeded out on a short list ballot…And Then It’s Spring, Chloe, Heroes of the Surf, A House Held Up By Trees, Mousterpiece, and Red Knit Cap Girl didn’t make it to the discussion round. Chloe and the Lion actually got the most votes in that short list vote…it will be interesting to see if it holds onto that support when we do the voting for the medal winner! What age kids do you do the Caldecott with? ~Bill:)

  9. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I was talking about this with my husband. (We are still on break and enjoying the time to jaw about books) He wondered the same thing–and thinks his sixth and seventh graders might love it, too. Luckily, the committee does not have to read a book at a teacher’s distance…thought they might. When I was on the committee, we did both–peering and looking at each page turn and gutter AND having someone read it aloud as one might at a story hour.

  10. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Ohhh–thanks for that list! I love hearing everyone’s shortlists.
    I teach second grade and they provide me with lots of honest feedback. They love to challenge my perceptions of books!

    I am taking a closer look at Homer soon and need to find Jazz Age Josephine.
    Glad to see Green and Step Gently Out made the cut.

  11. Bill Wright says:

    You’re welcome! Let me know what your group comes up with…always fun to hear what other groups’ choices are, especially other kid groups!

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