Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Counting Lions

Shouldn’t book lovers know most of all to not fall in love with a book because of its cover? Or are we the most easily tempted? I am not so sure. This book, I will admit, had me from the cover. Holding the book in my hands? Absolutely, I was done in. Oversized and gorgeous. Charcoal drawings that look as realistic as photographs. Vibrant orange end papers. This book is simply beautiful.

Counting Lions Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Counting Lions

Beautiful, yes. But even more, so important. Walk into a world of nature, of animals. Marvel at their beauty. Wonder about their unique habitats. Look, so very close up, at their behaviours and interactions. And then, think about counting them. Think about that not in the context of how many are on the page. But think about that with this question in mind, “What if we were counting the final ones?”

In the powerful forward by Virginia McKenna, she writes,

“In Counting Lions, children will start at number one and end at number ten. If it were true that there were, in reality, only five elephants or four tigers, then the world would know that the end of those species is in sight.”

This book is not meant to create fear, it is more about inspiring wonder. But a piece of that wonder needs to be about how we protect each of these species on our planet from all of the things that threaten their populations.

Each page is a gorgeous two page spread that consists of drawings (all in dark charcoal) and poetic text (all in bright orange). Each page begins and ends with the repeated number of each individual animal shared on the page. One to ten. One Lion. Two gorillas. Three giraffes. Four tigers. Five elephants. Six Ethiopian wolves. Seven penguins. Eight turtles. Nine macaws.Ten zebras.

At the end of the book more information is provided about each animal including its protection status. For the animals included in this book four are Endangered (gorillas, tigers, Ethiopian wolves, loggerhead turtles), two are Vulnerable (lions, elephants), one is Near Threatened (emperor penguins) and three are Least Concern (zebras, macaws, giraffes). We learn what specifically threatens each species and what if any conservation efforts are currently in practice. There is also different status for different animals. For example, the Plains zebras featured in this book are not Endangered but Grevy’s zebras in Kenya and Ethiopia have Endangered status.

Final pages also include more information about the contributors (author, artist and writer of the forward). Links to relevant websites to learn more are also provided.

Counting Lions: Portraits from the Wild is written by Katie Cotton and illustrated by Stephen Walton. Virginia McKenna (from the Born Free Foundation) writes the forward. Published in October 2015 by Candlewick Press.

Margie Myers-Culver from the blog Librarian’s Quest wrote a beautiful post about this book last week.

This book will be a stunning starting point to further reading and investigation about Endangered animals. In May, I put together a list: Endangered Animals: Building a Read Aloud collection. Start here for a variety of nonfiction picture books that can be shared in the Elementary classroom or with your own children.


Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2015. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!


18 thoughts on “Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Counting Lions

  1. Carrie your previous post this week tugged at my heart and I hope you take the time needed to do what is best for you and those dear to you. This book is beautiful. The front cover had me at hello. Thanks for sharing and I hope to see you again, when you can.

    • Hi Mandy. Thank you so much for this comment. I feel so supported through this amazing community of readers and bloggers. Having to be particularly cryptic over the nature of what is wrong. But, as we all know stress and challenge no matter what its source, hits us hard.

  2. Over the weekend, I opened this up in our town’s little independent bookstore, and a two year old boy–a complete stranger to me–said, “Lions!” and slid over next to me. He stayed glued to my side as we turned each page.
    Such beautiful art!

  3. Simply stunning. The illustrations really the essence of the animals, don’t they? They almost seem alive. As a child I would’ve just been enthralled by a book like this, and I’m sure kids today will be too. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.