When choosing books for the Touring Picture Book posts, we are very selective: choosing only the best of the best with books that have...

Touring Picture Book: How to Be a Lion & the Joy of Signed Books

Wednesday, September 05, 2018 BookBairn 6 Comments

When choosing books for the Touring Picture Book posts, we are very selective: choosing only the best of the best with books that have plenty of story, illustration and heart to allow us to all review the book and to provide you with something interesting, a new angle, to read in each of our posts. So when How to be a Lion by Ed Vere popped on our radars it says a great deal about it that we all immediately shouted yes!! over our emails!

And it's no wonder! It's a truly exceptional book. Lions are fierce. Lions are strong. Lions roar loudly. Right? Leonard is a lion like no other. He likes to write poems, he marvels over the night sky, he goes for long meandering thinking walks. And his best friend, Marianne, is a duck. Some say a lion should chomp a duck. But not Leonard who thinks that chomping your friends is a terrible plan. The other lions think that Leonard should be more like them, that there is only one way to be lion. What are Leonard and Marianne to do? I don't want to spoil the ending but let me just say that this is a story about finding your own path, about a gentler idea of masculinity.

Ed Vere wrote a wonderful letter that was included in the press release and I'd just like to quote a little to you to show the complexity of his story and the thought that has gone into every single word:

"I wrote 'How to be a Lion' because I wanted to say to children, there are many ways that you can you. Don't be afraid to show it. if you're quiet, gentle, or a dreamer - they're all valid. I wanted to show how you might resist the pressure to conform - to stand up for who it is you want to be."

In the current political climate where the loudest voices tend to dominate, pressurising others to follow, we need more voices like Leonard's (and Ed's) who show that often the quieter voices are the ones we need to be listening to - the thinking voices. We should be empowering children to find their own voice, loud or quiet, and to give them the courage to say what they want to say. And Leonard does just that.

The illustrations are stunning and vibrant and use incredible simple lines to create characters that are also vibrant and alive! At the Edinburgh Book Festival we were lucky enough to have a drawing lesson from Ed Vere on how to draw Leonard and it was incredible to see that with simple lines and shapes you really can create characters that are so real to children. 

In short, we love this book and read it over and over! And as part of the Touring Picture Book Club (with three wonderful like-minded bookish mum friends) I wanted to share one of the reasons our How to Be a Lion book is just so special!

It's because it's signed by Ed Vere himself as well as an added illustration of Leonard!

The Joy of Signed Books

One of the things that BookBairn loves about her book collection is the signed books that we have. We have been very lucky to have met lots of authors and illustrators thanks to being conveniently located near the Edinburgh Book Festival which happens annually and brings hundreds of brilliant book people and creators to our doorstep! Including Ed Vere (more on that shortly).

Personally I have always loved to have a signed book! I don't know why but that little scribble of the authors name adds a little magic to a book. And if it's a personal message then it makes it all the more sparkly. One of my mum's (she's a librarian and it's all her fault that I love books so much!) prized possessions is a signed copy of Miff by Dick Bruna so I guess like passing on the love of books, she's also passed on the love of signed editions.

I don't have that many signed books myself but we do have lots of signed picture books - often with an extra added doodle by the illustrator. Most of these have been from events we have attended at the Edinburgh Book Festival, though some are from local events as well as our local independent book shop often has signed first editions of new release picture books and it always always sways me to pick them up.

BookBairn is particularly fond of books where the illustrator (usually) has added an extra doodle just for her. There's magic for a child (and a book-loving grown up) in a personalised Rob Biddulph penguin or odd dog out, or a specially signed post card from Sophy Henn (along with the other lovely goodies she has given us over the years - personal favourite being an Edie beret), or a signed copy of Oi Frog with the message "Oi Lottie, sit on a potty!" (thanks Kes Grey - you have no idea how much this helped with potty training) and it's recently added matching illustration by Jim Field. And that's just to mention a few of our collection - I'll pop a little slideshow below!

And there is no doubt that these personal messages and drawings make BookBairn more inclined to choose them for storytime. She loves to run her little fingers over the words and doodles and often says "that's my name" or "that picture is just for me". She knows that it has made her book unique! 

So when I saw that Ed Vere was coming to the book festival we booked on to his event and joined in the how to draw a lion workshop and enjoyed a fun drawing and storytelling session, with BookBairn declaring afterwards "that was really great, mummy" although she was too tired to get a photo with Ed afterwards she did get a specially signed book and Leonard lion drawing from Ed. And we got our extra competition copy signed too! So you can have you very own signed version!

Check out the other activities happening across the Touring Picture Book Club and pop over to Acorn Books's Twitter to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of  your very own as well as an exclusive How to be a Lion notepad!

Acorn Books - Silly Sentences

Along Came Poppy - Books About Friendship

Mamma Filz - Book Inspired Art

And look out for our next touring picture book - "Storm" by Sam Usher.

And if you've popped over from one of the other fabulous blogs - hello! And our regular readers - hello to you too! We would love to hear if you have any signed books that you love!

Happy Reading!
Mummy, BookBairn and the Touring Picture Book Team!

Disclaimer: all four bloggers were sent copies of the book after we reached out to the publisher and requested them and we were provided with an additional copy for the giveaway. Words and opinions are each of our own. 

Read With Me


  1. This sounds like a book that all schools should have to hand as it includes a lot of important messages!! Thank you for sharing with #readwithme

    1. It would be a great book for classrooms! You are so right!

  2. I love the sound of this book and the idea that a lion and a duck can be friends. That’s just fabulous. Look forward to reading this one with BookBairn.

    1. A lion and a duck are two of our favourites so a great combination!

  3. Great book and very jealous of the doodles :) We have a signed Max and Bird book from Ed that we won and it is very treasured x

    1. Thank you - the Edinburgh Book Festival makes us very luck for signed books!