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Dandy the Highway Lion

Authored by Stephanie Sorrell
Illustrated by Roxana de Rond
Published by Chicken House Ltd

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Brother and sister, Ben and Hattie, are sick of their new house in London. Their countryside home in Derbyshire is calling them back, that is, until they make acquaintances with a mysterious talking lion in the park. Going by the name of Mr Dandy Paws, their new feline friend is refined and sophisticated. Never without a tailored waistcoat, top hat or luxuriously styled mane, Dandy is charismatic and has an air of aristocracy about him. But this character comes with a perilous secret. Dandy is a professional highway lion, keen to rob those that have mistreated animals. He enlists the duo on a mission to release his friends kept captive by exotic animal collectors. So begins their dangerous quest. But with a steely personal investigator hot on their tail and watching every move, can the trio protect the animals in need, or will their plans be foiled?

I was enraptured by this quirky, whirlwind journey of friendship, justice and fighting for freedom. Set in the 1920s London, Sorrell’s voice is distinct, with a quick witted, old-fashioned charm and an element of mischief throughout. The heroic Dandy is accompanied by quite the eccentric crew, beautifully brought to life by de Rond’s black and white illustrations. Dandy’s butler is a sheep that walks on two hind legs and his companion is a bear that learns to speak English. With the addition of two courageous school children and any number of close shaves, children are sure to get behind this eclectic and endearing team.

Dandy the Highway Lion would be well suited for children in Upper KS2 and even confident readers in Year 4. Amidst an abundance of silly scrapes, camaraderie and merciless baddies, Sorrell has also crafted a story with an unrelenting moral compass. Themes of animal rights are woven throughout. She invites children to think further about the difference between animals and humans and the morality of animal trade, with plenty of space for children to pause for thought. This makes for a go getting, thoughtful adventure that will not be forgotten in a hurry.