A Tale about an Old Lion
Written by Marjana Savka
Illustrated by Volodymyr Shtanko
L’viv, Ukraine: The Old Lion Publishing House, 2011, 40 pp.
Written by popular Ukrainian poet Marjana Savka’s and illustrated by well-known artist Volodymyr Shtanko, this book was published in L’viv in 2011 by the Old Lion Publishing House. The book received the Best Book of the Year Award in the category of “A Childhood Feast” and was included to the White Raven Online Catalogue, 2012.
A Tale about an Old Lion represents a “visiting card” to the cultural capital of Ukraine–the city of L’viv. The main character is the Old Lion who settles on a mansard of the City Hall, a home to the City Council and one of the cherished symbols in L’viv. From there, the Old Lion admires picturesque views of the Old City; in this way the author and the illustrator masterfully recreate the best must-see city places. However, living in the ancient mansard is not that comfortable as one might imagine. Since the weather is rainy in L’viv, the Old Lion experiences a number of troubles with his new home. A ceiling starts to leak and the Lion needs immediate help with major repairs and maintenance.
Seeking help, the Old Lion writes letters to his best friends–the Crocodile, the Elephant, and the Giraffe. He knows that they are good with various housekeeping tasks. His friends quickly come to the city; however, they all need to get to the Old Lion’s mansard by themselves. Excited about beautiful L’viv, everyone manages to get into trouble. The Giraffe stops at the playground and rocks children on her neck. The Crocodile goes to a restaurant to have a quick lunch where he does not understand a waiter’s jokes. He gets aggressive and, as a consequence, is arrested for his misbehavior. Moreover, the Elephant cannot enter the City Hall Gate because of his size. When people start gathering around the Elephant to take a look, the Old Lion finally notices what is happening and surprised at the situation, he falls out of mansard’s window. Luckily, he lands right on the Elephant’s back. This bustling situation attracts all people of L’viv, with even the Mayor and government representatives rushing to see the unexpected fuss.
After the Mayor’s investigation of these whimsical turbulences, he helpfully welcomes three bewildered guests and invites them to enjoy the city. The story’s ending offers an invitation to all the tourists from around the world to come to L’viv and see with their own eyes the welcoming atmosphere of the ancient city. Even though, the Old Lion’s guests go through some humorous extraordinary adventures, the book represents hospitality and warm hearts of the people of Ukraine.
A Tale about an Old Lion is an artful culturally-conscious book with a vibrant visual narrative. Shtanko’s illustrations elaborate and specify a rhythmic text. These are not only the vivid views of the city and its famous landscapes, but also warm brown and yellow colors that depict a unique authentic state of both the old and contemporary L’viv. Since the city is often known as a city of coffee with its numerous coffee houses and pastry shops, this particular color palette is the best choice to recreate an aroma of the city.
Marjana Savka is the author of several books for children and adults. Being also the editor-in-chief of the Old Lion Publishing House, she is a social activist and a promoter of reading culture in Ukraine. Savka was an invited guest speaker and a contributor to the Leipzig Book Fair children’s literature program and she is often invited to represent Ukrainian children’s literature to both Europe and the U.S.
Volodymyr Shtanko is a celebrated Ukrainian illustrator. The books illustrated by Shtanko are included in the White Raven catalogue and IBBY Honor List 2012. His works were displayed in many European countries and his artistic style is well-recognizable.
This book can be paired with some of its international editions, available in English published by the Ababahalamaha Publishing House as well as can be used with two distinguishing traditional Ukrainian folktales, The Mitten and The Turnip designed by Art Studio Agrafka (Andriy Lesiv and Romana Romanyshyn) that were included in the White Raven Catalogue (2012, 2013), available in English as books on demand. It would be an interesting and fun activity to use this book with travel guides/books or a set of maps to introduce Ukraine, which is one of the largest countries in Europe and to visually locate L’viv, in both school and academia classrooms.
Oksana Lushchevska, University of Georgia, Athens, GA