The Butterfly Lion, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


ILLUSTRATED BY CHRISTIAN BIRMINGHAM. A lyrical and moving tale of a young boy growing up in Africa, and his lifelong friendship with a white lion. "All my life I'll think you you, I promise I will. I won't ever forget you." Bertie rescues an orphaned white lion cub from the African veld.

They are inseparable until Bertie is sent to boarding school far away in England and the lion is sold to a circus.

Bertie swears that one day they will see one another again, but it is the butterfly lion which ensures that their friendship will never be forgotten.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 128 pages, illustrations
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General
  • ISBN: 9780006751038



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

This children's novel won the Smarties Prize and the Writers' Guild Award. A beautiful story, a bit sad but not too distressing for our 8 year old readers. The story within a story tells of a young South African boy who rescues a white lion cub, keeps it for a pet, and has to sell it to a circus after a year, when he is going to boarding school in England. Bertie swears he will find his lion one day, and will make sure it never has to live behind bars again. World War I begins, and the young man is off to the battlefields, where he earns a Victoria Cross. The young girl who befriended him as a child becomes a nurse, finds Bertie wounded in France, and together they discover the fate of the white lion. They succeed in taking him home to England, where they love and care for him in the country. They work for years digging out a chalk picture of the lion on a nearby hillside, so he will never be forgotten. A lovely nostalgic tale of adventure, loyalty and love.

Review by

This book tells the story of Bertie, a lonely little boy in the South African veld who one day adopts an orphaned white lion cub who then becomes his best friend. When he's due to go to boarding school in England, his father sells the cub to a French circus owner, but not before Bertie promises to find him again. Years later and now a soldier in France during WWI, he succeeds in tracking him down and bringing him back to England. When the lion dies, Bertie and his wife create the Butterfly Lion of the title to always remember him by.A short novel for confident readers (or for sharing) in fairly large print with charming illustrations, this is written in clear prose that is very engaging and manages to subtly convey to the reader the issues of love and belonging, loyalty and friendship, and even the terrors and hardships during the First World War. This would have been plenty to keep anyone happy, so the final twist of turning the book into a ghost story was, in my opinion, unnecessary and somewhat disappointing.A lovely introduction to the works of Michael Morpurgo that whets the appetite for more.

Review by

A touching story that I read in one sitting. It's a story within a story as a young boy runs away from school and ends up sat in an old lady's kitchen listening to her tale about the white lion.