Monday, May 13, 2013

Lions on the Loose in a War Zone

Pride of Baghdad
Pride of Baghdad is one of those books I would see everywhere.  Every library branch I go to seems to have it on the shelf, and every bookstore stocks it, too.  After at least three years of running across it and never picking it up, I bowed to the inevitable this week and impulsively checked it out from the library.  I thought the fates had finally aligned and I would meet a book soul mate.  Eh, not quite.

Pride of Baghdad is about a family of lions that, in the midst of America's bombing of Baghdad, escapes from the zoo.  They are overwhelmed by the experience of being out on the streets and having to catch their own food, and the artwork really illustrates the impact of war.

But in my opinion, the impact of war has been illustrated in other books in a much more vivid and moving way than it is here.  This book is based on a true event that really is a great basis for a story - starving lions were found by US military personnel in Baghdad - but it was just not executed in a way that drew me in.  The lions had no real depth to them.  They just went from one danger to the next, one episode to the next, and while I understood they were scared, I didn't really understand anything about them as individual characters.

They wanted to escape the zoo - okay, fine.  That doesn't really make them that unique (I would guess).  And then, they get culture shock.  That's reasonable, seeing as they are in a human war zone.  And then, they encounter a psychotic bear.  Well... okay, but why?  It was just a series of occurrences that didn't feel connected.  While the story moved forward chronologically, I didn't feel like there was any progression in plot.  And then the book just ends so abruptly and I assume I was supposed to feel sad and bitter about the heartlessness of war but instead, I just felt annoyed that I had read this whole book and still couldn't differentiate between the two lionesses.

So, sadly, all that karmic energy that kept putting this book in front was all for naught!  Hopefully the next time that happens, it's more of a successful pairing.

6 comments:

  1. Yeah, no, lions? Nah

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  2. I read this a few years ago and liked it very much. You're right that it's not a particularly new story, but for me, it was the art that made it great. And animal stories just get to me.

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  3. Hahahaha, all this zoo Baghdad stuff seems really to have inspired everyone. I saw a play with Robin Williams last year or the year before that was about the one single lion left in the Baghdad zoo. And my reaction to it was kinda similar to yours to this -- that the themes had been explored more effectively elsewhere.

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  4. Hmm... given the context I don't think I'd be able to read it. Animals having to escape might be the reality, but making up what's in their heads rather than focusing on the humans doesn't sound so good. That said, I do like the sound of the artwork.

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  5. I read this a few years ago and don't remember the details of it, but I do remember thinking it was okay. Not great, but okay

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  6. Always kind of rough when a book that seems like it should be awesome is not a good match. I'll admit that I've avoided this one carefully due to the fact that I hate stories where bad things happen to good animals, and bad things seem pretty inevitable here.

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