The Butterfly Lion
Age Range: 5 to 11
"All my life I'll think of you, I promise I will. I won't ever forget you."
Bertie rescues an orphaned white lion cub from the African veld. They are inseparable until Bertie is sent to boarding school far away in England and the lion is sold to a circus. Bertie swears that one day they will see one another again, but the butterfly lion ensures that their friendship will never be forgotten.
Teaching Ideas and Resources:
- The blurb on the back of the book has a quote from Bertie: "All my life I'll think of you, I promise I will. I won't ever forget you." Could you use this as the starting point for your own story?
- Can you research the life of Virginia McKenna and write a biography about her?
- At the start of the book, the boy is at boarding school in Wiltshire. Write a diary entry from his point of view, explaining how he feels about being there.
- Use one of the chapter titles as the title for a new story.
- Write a diary entry from Bertie's point of view at different points in the story (e.g. as he grows up with his dad away working and his mum teaching him on their compound, when he first sees the white lion and her cub, when he is allowed to keep the cub, when he is told that he will be going to England).
- Identify any unfamiliar words in the story (e.g. veld, haven, sentinels). Can you find out what they mean and write your own definition?
- Write / tell one of the stories that the men might share when they come home from their time away guarding the cattle.
- Write a list of arguments 'for' and 'against' Bertie's family keeping the white lion cub.
- Look at a picture of a white lion cub and think of vocabulary to describe it (see Resources below).
- Write a set of instructions to teach somebody how to look after an animal (e.g. a lion cub, a dog, a goldfish).
- Use drama techniques (e.g. conscience corridor) to discuss why Bertie's family should / shouldn't sell the lion to the circus owner. Watch this video for some ideas:
- Find out about the use of animals in circuses and write a balanced argument showing the arguments for and against this practice.
- Can you write the story from the lion's point of view?
- Millie enjoyed reading Black Beauty, Little Women and Heidi when she was younger. Can you find out about these stories? Could you read them yourself?
- Write one of the letters that Bertie sends to Millie when he goes off to college.
- Write the reply to Bertie's letter, in which he tells Millie that he is going off to war.
- Download a set of Year 5 plans based on this book here. Contributed by Thomas McNeil.
- Listen to this video in which the author reads part of the story. Could you retell the story?
- Make a list of the animals named in the book. Can you use a Venn diagram or Carroll diagram to sort them into different groups?
- Could you conduct a survey to find out your friends favourite animals and show the results in different types of table / graph?
- Make a list of the animals named in the book. What can you find out about them? Can you identify what they eat, their habitats, how they are adapted to live there etc?
- Bertie's mum is often sick with malaria. Can you research the disease? What are the causes / symptoms / treatment for it?
- Write a report about white lions. Watch this video which shows footage of them:
- Could you make a video which retells the story? Watch this one for inspiration:
- Design and make a kite that could be flown on Wood Hill.
- Paint a picture of the lion on the hillside that 'was blue and shimmering in the sunlight'.
- Draw a picture of the waterhole that is near to Bertie's farm in Timbavati.
- Can you draw a black and white illustration of part of the story, in a similar style to the pictures in the book?
- Recreate the poster that Millie and Bertie find that promotes 'Le Cirque Merlot'.
- Draw a picture of an Adonis Blue butterfly (see Resources below).
- The boy tries to run away from his boarding school in Wiltshire to his home in London. Use a map to plan the journey and find the quickest route.
- Find out everything that you can about Africa. Can you write a report about the continent?
- If you were going to travel to Timbavati, how would you get there? Can you plot the journey on a map?
- Try to research the place 'Timbavati', where Bertie was born. What is the environment like there? Who lives there? What is there to do in the local area? How is it similar / different to where you were born?
- Draw a map of the compound where Bertie grows up.
- Find out about the weather in Timbavati. How does it compare to where you live?
- Use a map to locate all of the places mentioned in the story.
- Can you find the locations of any hillside chalk art, like the one in the story?
- Create a timeline showing the events of each character in the story.
- Find out the main events of World War I.
- Research the 'Victoria Cross'. Why was it given to people? Who received it?
- The Born Free Foundation is an international wildlife charity. Can you find out more about the work that it does? Could you plan and carry out some fundraising activities to support it?
- Basher Beaumont terrorises and torments the boy at boarding school. Discuss bullying and how we can help people who are affected.
- Bertie 'yearns' to be out in the veld with the animals. What does 'yearn' mean? How you ever 'yearned' for something?
- The old lady says that 'true stories do not always end just as we would wish them to'. Do you prefer to hear the truth or something made up that keeps you happy?
- Millie uses the phrase 'Everything comes to he who waits'. What does this mean? Can you find out any more famous phrases?