‘Sweet Penny and the Lion’ Book Review

'Sweet Penny and the Lion' Book Review

I am constantly asking my oldest daughter to listen to me, follow directions, and behave. However, I also teach her not to accept everything that everyone tells her. Striking a balance is most certainly a challenge. When recently offered the chance to review Sweet Penny and the Lion by Richard Fairgray and Alexander Burke in exchange for my honest opinion, I eagerly accepted the opportunity to add a new title to my home library.


Needing just a good table to draw on and a nice scanner and lamp to be happy, Richard Fairgray is a writer, artist and colorist. As a child, he firmly believed that he would grow up and eat all the candy he wanted and stay up as late as he liked. He has made his dream come true by drawing pictures when he was not meant to and reading all the things that people told him not to. He is best known for his work in comic books such as Blastosaurus and Ghost Ghost and picture books such as Gorillas in Our Midst, My Grandpa Is a Dinosaur, and If I Had an Elephant. He currently owns multiple tables, scanners and lamps in New Zealand, Canada, and the United States so that he can sit down and start working wherever he wakes up.

Currently surviving on a special diet of popcorn and coffee rigorously supervised by a cat named Major Tom (short for Maureen Thomas) that he rescued from a life of coldness and the great outdoors, Alexander Burke is an award-winning composer and musician living in Los Angeles. He has composed music for films and soundtracks such as Iron Man 3, The Gift, A Little Something for Your Birthday, Mortified Nation, and Funny or Die. He is a guest artist for numerous albums and live specials for artists including Michael Buble, David Lynch, Fiona Apple, Edward James Olmos, Dave Grohl, and Margaret Cho. His band Magnolia Memoir has released four albums to date.


“There once was a girl named Sweet Penny who always did as she was told,” begins Sweet Penny and the Lion. The book tells the story through rhymed verse of a little girl named Penny who would never do anything to disappoint her parents, disrupt class, or upset her friends. When bullies steal her lunch, she quietly smiles, and, when her teachers forgets to include her and instead tells her to stand very still, she does. One day on the playground when a lion jumps the fence, her classmates scream and scatter but Penny refuses to move, following the directions from her teacher. And the lion eats Penny. However, while instead this very dark belly, something changes inside Penny. She punches and kicks her way out and, upon emerging from the beast, not-so-sweet Penny will never be taken advantage of again. The wickedly funny picture book is a celebration of strong girls. As the story ends, “Be bold, be loud, shout out, and speak up, sometimes it’s hard to be brave.” Recommended for readers between the ages of 3 and 6 in preschool through kindergarten, the 32-page hardcover book with dust jacket currently costs $16.99 on Amazon.

Front Cover of 'Sweet Penny and the Lion' Back Cover of 'Sweet Penny and the Lion'

Inside Pages of 'Sweet Penny and the Lion' 1 Inside Pages of 'Sweet Penny and the Lion' 2


As the mother of a strong-willed little girl, I love the message in Sweet Penny and the Lion. I want her to learn to follow the rules and behave, but I also do not want her (or her siblings) to grow up into doormats. While being sweet and obedient has a place, well-behaved women rarely make history, as the saying goes. I therefore love the message in the wickedly funny picture book. Everyone might think you sweet if you always do as you are told, but you might also get eaten by a lion if you never think for yourself or question the rules. The book is absolutely perfect for my oldest daughter, who can read the rhymed text quite easily on her own at age six.

As soon as my copy of Sweet Penny and the Lion, I read the book aloud to my preschool son and infant daughter. My son enjoyed hearing me read the verse in rhyme aloud, and he really liked the story, especially the part when Penny gets eaten by the lion. Both of my older two children also like the pictures that illustrate the book. The illustrations have a darker feel due to the style and coloring but are still fun to look at while reading the hilarious story. My son especially likes the final picture in the book of a boy named Dave inside a bear. My infant daughter also enjoys looking at the pictures as I read the book out loud to her and her big brother.

Final Verdict

If you are searching for a book that instills a message about bravery and sticking up for oneself, I highly recommend checking out Sweet Penny and the Lion from Richard Fairgray and Alexander Burke. My six-year-old can easily read the rhymed text, and my two younger children enjoy hearing me read the wickedly funny book aloud. The illustrations likewise bring the story to life with a style that fits the text. I especially like the message of the story, which encourages kids to be bold and be brave. My kiddos and I give Sweet Penny and the Lion many thumbs up!

Purchase Sweet Penny and the Lion on Amazon via my affiliate link.

Image Credits

‘Sweet Penny and the Lion’ Book Review © 2018 Heather Johnson
Front Cover of ‘Sweet Penny and the Lion’ © 2018 Heather Johnson
Back Cover of ‘Sweet Penny and the Lion’ © 2018 Heather Johnson
Inside Pages of ‘Sweet Penny and the Lion’ 1 © 2018 Heather Johnson
Inside Pages of ‘Sweet Penny and the Lion’ 2 © 2018 Heather Johnson

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