Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 11
- Grade: 3 to 6
- Reading age: 8 to 11
An escaped lion is hiding in the middle of the city, and it is up to Sadie and Theo to save him!
When a circus train derails in Toronto in 1925, a lion escapes and finds shelter in High Park, a four-hundred-acre park in the west end of the city. No one knows about the creature except for Sadie Menken, the feisty daughter of a pie-maker. As various squirrels, dogs and an expensive peacock meet unfortunate ends, and the park “beast” is spotted by visitors, the lion’s presence draws the attention of the authorities.
Can Sadie save the lion? Can she resist the temptation to try to make a pet of a creature that is wild at heart?
That will take the help of some unlikely allies, including her busy pie-making father, Miss Clemons the retired librarian, and a polite but lonely rich boy named Theodore, as Sadie discovers that an “all-right” ending can sometimes be just happy enough.
A story about a child who follows her heart, set at a time when kids were not always under a grownup’s watchful eye, when wild and urban spaces intertwined, and adventure could be found in a city’s back alley, or just past the picnic tables of the local park.
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
About the author
Cary Fagan is the author of eight previous novels and five books of short stories, including The Student, Great Adventures for the Faint of Heart, and A Bird's Eye. He has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Writers' Trust Fiction Award, the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, and has won the Toronto Book Award and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction. He is also an acclaimed writer of books for children, having won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, the IODE Jean Throop Book Award, a Mr. Christie Silver Medal, the Joan Betty Stuchner—Oy Vey!—Funniest Children's Book Award, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People. Fagan's work has been translated into French, Italian, German, Dutch, Spanish, Catalan, Turkish, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Korean and Persian. He still lives in his hometown of Toronto.
- Nominated, Silver Birch Award
Excerpt: The Hollow under the Tree (by (author) Cary Fagan)
The railway car twisted, buckled and split apart, sending splinters of metal and wood in every direction. The lion was thrown free of the debris. He landed in bushes a hundred yards farther on.
He lay there for a minute or two before rising painfully. He shook himself and limped past the bits of wood and metal to begin walking up the dark hill ahead.
The lion came to a post in the ground. He smelled the disagreeable odor of the many dogs that had stopped there to lift their legs.
Attached to the post was a sign:
Welcome to High Park
This novel will have every animal lover wanting their own personal “Sunny”.
Fagan's story is full of quiet humor, nostalgia, and a touch of wistfulness that lends realism to the fantastical premise.
An excellent read . . . Equally suitable as a read-aloud or as a choice for independent reading, this short chapter book will please animal enthusiasts and readers of tales about brave girls alike.
. . . this accessible, engaging read has ample appeal for fans of animal stories.
This is a quick read for younger middle grade readers looking for slightly offbeat mysteries. A solid purchase for larger collections.
School Library Journal