Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back // Book Review

Author: Shel Silverstein
Genre: Children’s Book
Year Published: 1963
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 112 pages

Shel Silverstein started my love of reading at the ripe young age of five. I’m not too cool to admit that sometimes when I have a bad day I turn to my good friend Where the Sidewalk Ends. So when my little sister bought me a Shel Silverstein book as a birthday present for my 21st birthday I was incredibly, nerdily excited.

This story follows a brave lion who comes to be known as Lafcadio. After eating a hunter and stealing his gun Lafcadio quickly becomes the sharpest shooter in all of Africa. When he gets recruited to join a circus, Lafcadio becomes wildly famous and rich. And in the process might just forget where he came from.

I absolutely love Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back. This quirky tale of self-discover disguised as a children’s book could teach people of all ages a lesson or two. As someone who is about to enter their (potential) last year of college and is trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing with my life, I found great comfort in Lafcadio’s journey. Here are just a few of the lessons I learned from the lion who shot back.

Use your talents for good! When Lafcadio first starts shooting he uses it to protect his friends and family. But the aspect of endless marshmallow’s leads him down a road of riches. He gets lonely and bored very quickly.

Being rich and famous isn’t nearly as important as the people in your life. Lafcadio had it all. He had so much that he got bored with all his crazy adventures. He kept searching for bigger and better experiences that ultimately still left him feeling lonely. Even an unlimited supply of marshmallows couldn’t keep him happy.

Never forget where you came from. Lafcadio got so caught up with his fancy new life that he completely forgot where he came from. When he returns to Africa on a hunting trip he is struck by just how much he has changed. So much that he doesn’t know who he is anymore.

And most importantly:
It’s ok to not know where you’re going or what will happen: My favorite quote in this whole book was towards the end. “…he didn’t really know where he was going, but he did know he was going somewhere, because you really have to go somewhere, don’t you? And he didn’t really know what was going to happen to him, but he did know that something was going to happen, because something always does, doesn’t it?” This has seriously become my life motto. I don’t know where I am going in life and what I’m doing, but that’s ok because something will happen in my life! Thanks Lafcadio for validating my uncertainty.

Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back was a fantastic, quick read that both transported me back to my childhood and gave me some new perspective about my adult life. I would honestly recommend this book for readers of all ages.

Rating: 5 marshmallows out of 5


Book Review / The Impossible Knife of Memory

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Year Published: 2014
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Length: 391 page

Hayley Kincain is far from your typical high school senior. After being home schooled for five years as her dad worked as a semi-truck driver, she finds herself back in the halls of public high school. Throughout first, and last, year in high school Hayley juggles a father suffering from PTSD, trying to access her own memories from her childhood, figuring out the rules to dating, and not doing great at actually passing her classes. Hayley skirts on the brink of disaster in her life on a daily basis. Will she let the memories tear her way through and trust that she can recover? Or will the pressure of taking care of her dad become too much to handle?

My Thoughts:
I just have to start out with proclaiming my love for Laurie Halse Anderson. She is seriously the queen of YA. Anderson takes big issues and weaves them into incredible heart-wrenching tales of love, loss, and belonging.

The ways in which Anderson explained Andy and Hayley’s relationship was so realistic. She didn’t try to sugar coat their dynamic, but showed how complex it was. The constant turmoil Hayley went through of loving and wanting to help her father, but also wanting to just be a normal teenager for once felt was so genuine.

I also loved seeing the highs and lows Andy went through from Hayley’s perspective. This book was a very real exploration of a child living with a parent suffering from PTSD.

I can’t talk about this book without talking about Finn. Hayley and Finn’s relationship was precious, and just as complex as everything else in Hayley’s life. Again, Anderson succeeded in create genuine, realistic relationships between her characters. I think insta-love is all too common in YA. And sure, sometimes it works. But, it wouldn’t have for Finn and Hayley. The fact that Hayley had never really dealt with the realm of boys and relationships became very real in the way she approached her relationship with Finn right from the start. Seriously though, that date he tricked her into? Adorable. Also, the fact that Finn had his own emotional baggage was perfect for Hayley. Sure, they were kind of crap at communicating, but that’s pretty typical for a high school relationship. They definitely learned to be what the each other needed.

For me the sign of a good book is when it makes me emotional. If I am so attached to the lives of these characters that I can’t hold it together, that’s a good sign. This book did just that. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and I yelled. The Impossible Knife of Memory was just as fantastic as any of Anderson’s other works.