"Really? I don't see it, sweetie. Not that I don't believe you, but where is it?"
"Mom, I was just pretending my cheerio is a moon."
Children have such wonderful imaginations. It's hard for us to remember sometimes how real their imaginary ideas are to them. In "the show-and-tell lion" the main character, Matthew, wants to share something exciting with his class during show-and-tell. He says, "I have a lion...a baby lion." and the story grows from there. His teacher tries to redirect him, but her alternate story is just a false, or maybe more false because it is not what he is seeing in his own mind. As the other children ask questions, Larry (the lion) grows bigger and bigger. Matthew's tale gets away from him when the children all ask to go on a field trip to see Larry before he has to go live at the zoo.
There are so many things I love about this story. It explores the imagination of a little boy and how real it becomes to him. The illustrations by Lynne Avril Cravath are endearing and add to the story in subtle ways (like the protrait of George Washington peering over Matthew's shoulder as he begins his fantastic story). The text by Barbara Abercrombie is straightforward and easy to read.
I think what I like best is that Matthew takes his dilemma home and shares it with his mother. Her response is that Matthew needs to tell the truth. She doesn't rescue him by rushing out to find a pet lion (unlikely, I know...but these days...) or letting him stay home from school for a few days while his friends move on to something else. She guides him to understand that his wonderful imagination has gotten away from him, and that he needs to be honest. Matthew's excellent solution is to make Larry "real" in a story. He writes down all of Larry's adventures and illustrates them himself. When he shares the "real" Larry with his class they are initially disappointed, but soon caught up in the adventure of the story. I also like how the author and illustrator show pages of Matthew's story and both the writing and drawing are typical of a child's writing and drawing - with cross outs, misspellings, and simple shapes.
Imagination is a wonderful gift, and this story shows how to encourage and direct it at the same time.
We found this lovely story at our local library, but you can also find it on Amazon, here.