Book Review: The Tawny Scrawny Lion by Kathryn Jackson, illus. by Gustaf Tenggren (Reading with Pearl)

Last Christmas my terrific brother-in-law and his lovely wife gave us a collection of Little Golden Books. We all remember Little Golden Books from our childhood, right? They’re awesome. I love reading books from my own kid days with Pearl. However, sometimes re-reading kids books as an adult casts a new light on them.


(Spoilers ahead!)

What continent does this Lion live on? He’s feasting on bears, kangaroos, and camels all in one place? Is he in a zoo? What kind of zookeeper would allow this behaviour?

My fingers look weird.
My fingers look weird.

The animals don’t like being eaten (fair enough) so they elect the Rabbit to talk to the lion, framing it as a special privilege. The other animals are jerks. The poor little Rabbit is all proud of himself and the animals are telling him how he has to get right up close to the lion.


Also, why is the rabbit the only one wearing clothes? It bothers me when children’s stories are inconsistent in this fashion. Either no animals should wear clothes or they all should! Otherwise I become uncomfortable with the animal nudity.


That’s not exactly the face of someone excited to go somewhere. The Lion does seem alarmingly thin though.

Side note: I would be pretty upset if my brother described me to a stranger as “fat”. Do rabbits feel differently about this?


This picture caused me to google “Do rabbits eat fish?” (It was not one of Google’s suggestions.)

Picture 1 informs that, unfortunately, they cannot. I love the internet.

The plot falls apart a bit here when it is never explained why the lion doesn’t simply gobble up all the fat little rabbits and the stew right away.

Please note that all the rabbits are wearing clothes. Is this part of normal forest (do they live in a forest? a jungle? again, what continent is this?) life? Rabbits wear clothes and other animals do not?

The rabbits then proceed to fill up the lion with carrot stew and berries. I can kind of buy that though it seems like they’d have to feed him a lot of stew. Is there enough left over for all the rabbits? Ten rabbits is a lot. (Do they all live together? Where are their parents? How old are these rabbits?)


This is my favourite picture. A lion in a chair, cuddling with a bunch of rabbits. I have nothing negative to say about that.


The Lion sleeps on a pile of straw but has a patchwork quilt to cover himself. Did he make this quilt for himself? Why does the image of a lion painstakingly piecing together a quilt and trying to hold a needle with his big lion paws make me feel so sad?


Now everybody’s wearing clothes! That bear has a top hat and an umbrella – so fancy! Apparently, they are all dressed in their best. So wearing clothes is a special occasion type of thing? But rabbits are always dressed for a special occasion? Is that it?

The Lion remains naked.

Also, he really likes carrot stew. And everyone lived happily ever after. I guess.

Now, children, what have we learned from this story?

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Tawny Scrawny Lion by Kathryn Jackson, illus. by Gustaf Tenggren (Reading with Pearl)”

  1. Hahaha! I think what I’ve learned is that these books might be more fun for adults than kids! I was shocked – he eats kangaroos?!! I know it’s Hallowe’en but such graphic horror! You’d think if he can make quilts he’d be able to make himself some kind of simple outfit – a kaftan, perhaps…

    1. This book is just not accurate when it comes to what animals eat! And yes, why doesn’t this lion just make himself some clothes?

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