Christmas Countdown: Day 13 - Little Lion: A Long Way Home

Saroo Brierley’s tale is one of heartbreak and tenacity. It’s the kind of bad dream that has you waking in a cold sweat; you know the one, where dread and abject terror fill every cell of your body because something so unconscionably bad happens and you are helpless to reverse it. Saroo Brierley experienced such a dream, which for a boy of just five years of age is harrowing enough, except Saroo’s nightmare was real.

Separated from his older brother one fateful night whilst roaming the train platforms near his small hometown village, Saroo’s life takes an irreversible detour. From simply searching for opportunities to improve their improvised existence in India’s regional mid-west, Saroo’s young logic transports him half-way across the country to Calcutta (Kolkata); a veritable galaxy away from everything and everyone he’s ever known.

Incredibly, he survives alone on the streets for weeks until he finds refuge in an orphanage. Within a month fate steps in again and Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple. Saroo’s childhood in Tasmania is rich and colourful. He is supported and loved and wants for nothing more, except to know more of the family he left behind. The pull of one’s origins is a heart-tug that never lets go and so Saroo begins a Google maps search to untangle the web of railway lines that might lead him back to his home village of Khandwa, whose dusty streets are etched indelibly in his five-year-old memory.

What is astounding about Saroo’s story is just how far this man’s hope travelled with so little to fuel it. He barely knew his own name, could not remember the town he was from nor which train lines dissected it yet the meaning of his Hindi name, lion, provided the strength and persistence to drive him on.

Luck has many faces and for Saroo, his mother (Sue Brierley), was one who pervaded such luck. Without the support of his parents and guidance of his International school friends, Saroo’s quest might never have eventuated.

As with his first narrative account and subsequent award-winning film, Saroo’s real life story told in this picture book format induces tear-flowing emotion. If you have not encountered it before, I won’t ruin the ending for you, suffice to say, have the tissues handy.

Little Lion is remarkable enough in its own telling but with the aid of Bruce Whatley’s striking cinematic illustrations this story is elevated to the next level. Faithful to the era, physical form and even the geography of India, Whatley’s rich sweeping style, adroit use of illustrative mediums and attention to infinite detail ensures this true life tale is one you won’t easily forget.

This story will resonate with all those who have ever felt a long way from the people and places that mean the most to them. It is a story of pure heart that celebrates the importance of hope and never giving up and all those transformative steps experienced along the road of self-discovery. In short, it’s a beautiful must-read real life fairy tale. Highly recommended.

Title: Little Lion: A Long Way Home
Author:  Saroo Brierley
Illustrator:  Bruce Whatley
Publisher:  Penguin Random House Australia, $ 24.99
Publication Date:  November 2020
Format:  Hardcover
: 9780143795094
For ages:  6+
Type:  Picture Book for Older Readers

Buy the Book: QBD, Boomerang Books, Readings


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