Jim's Lion

May 4, 2018
Subheader: 

When you wish upon a black person...

Review: 

This book is extremely wordy and rather culturally insensitive. Africa is a big place, with many varied cultures, and just saying that someone is "tribal" and "from Africa" is worse than saying someone is "European": it tells you nothing about them other than they are a different culture from the main character and that's "interesting."

There is a little white boy who is sick (it doesn't say what's wrong with him; it just says that he's very sick). It's possible that he will die. There's an operation that might help, and he is in the hospital. His nurse is "from Africa" and "she [has] tribal scars on her cheeks. She had seen lions, elephants, crocodiles." He's scared of the operation, being afraid that he won't be able to find his way back from being asleep. She tells him that everything he's ever seen or thought about is still in his head, including a bunch of animals. One of the animals is "a finder." She basically has him meditate, and he goes to his "good place," a specific beach that he's been to before. A lion approaches him, which he thinks is really weird. The next day she says, "Don't tell me about it. If you talk about it, something goes out of it." And she says she has a finder too. He mentions that his was scary, and she says that's how you know it's the real thing, and gives him a magic rock so he's not scared. He meets the lion a couple of times again in dreams, and then he has the operation and everything is good and he gets home in time for Christmas. Then he gets another painted rock from the nurse.

This is a very strange book. It's never stated where in "Africa" the woman is from. The only thing you ever learn about her is that she's a nurse (which is, don't get me wrong, a respectable profession). But she's basically the "Magical Negro" (TV Tropes). She's the vaguely different character who is more in touch with nature that helps the white person by giving him "deep spiritual wisdom" (TV Tropes). It's not okay to treat other cultures that way.

Everything is left so vague that it's unclear what his disease is, but some credit should be given to the doctors who performed the operation successfully, and the ones who have been treating him the whole frigging time.

The biography of the author says, "The lion in this story is an old friend of mine. We've journeyed far together and he's always brought me back." So is he saying that he actually has a finder himself? I mean, the main character's name is Jim, and the author's name is Russell, so the book isn't autobiographical... If he has a "finder", where did he get his finder from?

Message: 

Black people have magic powers and will help you get through illnesses. Or, operations are scary and dangerous.

Author
Illustrator
Publication Year
  • 2001
Age Range
Age Range: 
6-9
Number of Pages
Number of Pages: 
32
Number of Words on Typical Page
Number of Words: 
180

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