“Is a lion still a lion if…he wears a hat? And carries an umbrella, too? And is a lion still a lion if he says, ‘Oh yes, lunch would be lovely, thank you.’ And he asks you for…a BITE?”

These are the questions posed by A Lion is a Lion, the latest title from Tilly and Friends creator Polly Dunbar. The titular creature spends much of the book dressed in a grey suit jacket and pork pie hat while carrying around a bright red umbrella, presumably trying to channel Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain as he skips down the street singing “Do-be-do-be-doo” before arriving at the house of two terrified children and inviting himself in for tea. Of course, to begin with he’s polite and gentlemanly, and remembers his manners – until the possibility of pudding is mooted and the children have to be brave and assert themselves to avoid being on the menu.

Dunbar is a graduate of Brighton Art School, as well as being the daughter of author Joyce Dunbar, with whom she has collaborated on titles such as Pat-a-Cake Baby. She has also illustrated books for authors such as David Almond.

On an aesthetic level, the story is told with a bouncing, rhythmic and somewhat conversational narrative, which is great fun to read aloud. The illustrations are colourful and detailed, and the sight of the lion in these smart clothes is pretty amusing – although they of course don’t disguise his natural primal instinct.

On a deeper level, A Lion is a Lion conveys the subtle message to children that some people that they come across in life are not who they say they are, and if a situation causes them to become uncomfortable, it’s perfectly okay to say no.

Images courtesy of Walker Books, who have published A Lion is a Lion by Polly Dunbar.

A Lion is a Lion was published on 1st February 2018 by Walker Books.