Reviews /

The Lion Above the Door

Authored by Onjali Q Rauf
Published by Hachette Children's Group

Tagged , , , ,

Another thought-provoking gem from the award winning author Onjali Rauf. Exploring themes of historical racism, The Lion Above the Door is a heart warming story of two friends and their quest to celebrate the forgotten World War Two soldiers.

Two friends, Leo and Sangeeta often feel as though they don’t quite fit in at their village school and are subjected to the stares and jibes of their classmates. However, Leo’s Dad insists it is because they are special. When a class trip to a nearby cathedral leads Leo to notice his full name carved into a remembrance wall, things change and Leo wants to know more. Who is this person? Are they related? Why is his name next to a lion and what do the initials DCF mean? Excitement breaks out on their return as the class discover that the school has been chosen to take part in a TV Remembrance Day competition. Classmates put forward their ideas for a theme with Leo suggesting that they could investigate ‘people who were in the war that no one else knows about’, secretly driven by his desire to research his namesake. The two friends become determined to explore the lost histories of the forgotten heroes who fought in World War Two and a series of adventures ensues as Leo makes a promise to himself that he will make ‘everyone listen!’

Onjali Rauf’s characters are brought to life through their thoughts and dialogue. This allows the reader to really get to know Leo, Sangeeta and Olivia. We learn how they approach life and join them as they work together to address their own insecurities and challenges whilst tackling the wider issue of racism and bullying. The seriousness of this issue is not tempered by the humour contained within the book; in fact, it serves to highlight the way in which history has forgotten to acknowledge some of the soldiers who served in World War Two. The episode involving the covert takeover of a flight simulator and subsequent parental admonishments is a laugh out loud moment but the message behind it is clear: young people standing up for what they believe is right. Their bravery in fighting to get their voice heard is mirrored in the stories they uncover along the way. The key themes of friendship, determination, sensitivity and self-discovery sit well within the age range for which this book is intended. The author has a gift for understanding young people’s feelings and articulating this in a meaningful yet fun manner. Children reading this book should feel empowered and educated as they explore the forgotten histories that Leo and his friends bring to life.

The Lion Above the Door would work beautifully as a class read, provoking discussions around and exploration of the main themes. For any teacher teaching their class about World War Two, this provides a refreshing perspective, and the first edition has a series of photographs and profiles celebrating those heroes and highlighting the inequalities suffered by some. Prejudice is explored and the inclusion of a list of countries recognised for actively supporting the Allied forces offers opportunities to discover more about ‘heroes we have yet to meet‘. Readers will enjoy the fast pace of the story whilst learning more about racism past and present. This book is definitely one for the classroom!