"You don't have to shoot me," says the young lion. "I will be your rug and I will lie in front of your fireplace and I won't move a muscle and you can sit on me and toast all the marshmallows you want. I love marshmallows."
But the hunter will not listen to reason, so what is there for a young lion to do? After eating up the hunter, Lafcadio takes the gun home and practices and practices until he becomes the world's greatest sharp-shooter.
Now dressed in starched collars and fancy suits, and enjoying all the marshmallows he wants, Lafcadio is pampered and admired wherever he goes. But is a famous, successful, and admired lion a happy lion? Or is he a lion at all?
Told and drawn with wit and gusto, Shel Silverstein's modern fable speaks not only to children but to us all!
First published in 1963, the late Shel Silverstein's children's book debut Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back, will resonate with young readers much as it did 40 years ago. The affable narrator Uncle Shelby's story begins: "Once there was a young lion and his name was--well, I don't really know what his name was because he lived in the jungle with a lot of other lions and if he did have a name it certainly wasn't a name like Joe or Ernie or anything like that." That all changes, however, when a circus man discovers the lion's skills as a marksman (the lion took a gun from a hunter he ate) and names him Lafcadio the Great. When the circus man takes Lafcadio to New York City, the story takes on a certain Crocodile Dundee quality--the lion eats the menu at a fancy restaurant, demands marshmallows (he likes the sound of them), and is captivated by the hotel elevator. As Lafcadio becomes more civilized and rich and famous, however, he becomes more unhappy. In the end, to entertain the increasingly despondent star, the circus man takes Lafcadio hunting in Africa where he encounters his old lion friends on the other end of his gun. Is Lafcadio now a man or is he a lion? He decides he is neither and wanders alone into the valley. In typical Silverstein style, this exuberantly-silly-yet-poignant fable, illustrated with simple, expressive line drawings, asks more questions than it answers. The glee the author derives from wordplay and the sound of language is positively contagious. This read-aloud classic belongs on every child's bookshelf. (Ages 6 to 10) --Karin Snelson