The second Lesley Barnes title in the Jill series with the first being Jill and Dragon, Jill and Lion is athe hotly anticipated beautifully illustrated picture book, which weaves in reading and storytelling into a book that celebrates the significance of friendship. Reinventing her signature style with an element of the retro circus, Barnes has created a rather stunning follow-up to the Dragon tale, detailed and ornate on every page.

Whilst reading their favourite book, Jill is taken aback to discover that the lion’s crown has been taken by the evil ringmaster, and he has been forced to join the circus and drive a toy car around in continuous circles. In her mission to return the crown its rightful owner, Jill jumps into a rather dangerous chapter in the book, but with Dog at her side she is unstoppable. The alternative hat emerging from the page, displacing the importance of the crown is pivotal as it highlights that it’s what is on the inside that counts.

The sense of movement in the illustrations allows the story to move at a pace, coupled with the disjointed text, along with a touch of the surreal, there is certainly enough to stimulate. The zebras’ grace is effectively depicted. The peering eyes of the tiger suggest that he is not to be trusted. In fact there are elements of Alice in Wonderland vividly influencing Jill and Lion. So intricate in style and detail, there is always noise in the background of Barnes work, plenty to catch the eye of the reader, in that way that they will see something new with every read. The book entertains the notion of story skilfully adding a twist to the tale, as the book pages blow over to throw the king hat off the lion. And for the final twist, the focus of the story changes from the king to the train, the literal driver of the tale becomes the tale.

Blurring the boundaries between the reader and the yarn this is a book that really captures the essence of storytelling, loyal friendship and bravery.

Jill and Lion was published by Tate Publishing on 1st February 2017.