Welcome to Cantastic Authorpalooza, featuring posts by and about great Canadian children’s book creators! Today’s guest: Rina Singh. Take it away, Rina!
The Lion Queen was inspired by the true story of Rasila Vadher, the first woman guardian of the last Asiatic Lions of India’s Gir Forest. The book is gorgeously illustrated by Tara Anand and published by Cameron Kids.
There are two stories intertwined in the book–– the story of lions and of the lion queen.
Gir Forest in the state of Gujarat is the only place in the world where Asiatic lions are found. Everywhere else in Asia, they were hunted into extinction.
There came a time in India too when only a dozen lions were left. However, the 2020 census was very encouraging, showing that there were 674 lions in the Gir forest. It took about a hundred years, but it has now become one of the world’s most successful wildlife conservation stories.
In 2007, in a historic move, Gir forest hired women for the very first time.
Rasila was the first one.
I saw a documentary where I saw her darting fierce lions with tranquilizers, wrestling with pythons, saving leopards, arresting poachers, and nursing abandoned cubs on quiet days.
I was so fascinated that I knew I had to write her story.
Crafting an exciting story that seamlessly blends women’s power and protecting wildlife was a bit of a challenge. I wanted to create a story that kids would love and learn from.
During my research, I got carried away with the gripping story of the Asiatic lions. So, I thought the story would be better off as a graphic novel. I wrote the story in a graphic novel format, and eventually, it was acquired as a picture book. However, I made sure the story of Asiatic lions was still in there, even though I had to leave out many details.
It was important for me to make Rasila, the main character, feel real and relatable. I wanted to understand her feelings and what made her so brave. I even talked to her on the phone! She shared details that I would have never found otherwise. I also watched movies and documentaries about lions to learn more.
I used the lion’s roar as a metaphor for Rasila’s courage.
Both the lions and women are symbols of beauty and strength, yet they are surprisingly fragile against the forces of man. Despite the odds, they not only survived but thrived.
I hope my book will help readers discover their own roar and contribute to creating a compassionate world that resounds with the roar of the majestic lions.
The Lion Queen is on New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2023!
Kirkus called it ––A stirring story of persistence and courage.
Here’s a fun fact: Baby lions practise their roar from the time they are born—and by the time they are one year old, the roar is fully developed and is as loud as thunder.
To learn more about Rina Singh and her work, visit her website.