In watercolors simultaneously delicate and taut with emotion, Deacon imagines Jim and his lion fighting his sickness. Small panels capture with marvelous powers of invention the hallucinatory nature of sickness. Dreamlike worlds of death threaten to engulf Jim, are beaten back, then gather strength and attack again. Deacon’s images enhance but do not overwhelm Hoban’s story, which holds its own potent magic. Nurse Bami tells Jim how he’ll know he’s found his finder: “The real thing is always more than you’re ready for,” she says. This is the real thing.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Dramatic… Wordless dream (or more accurately, nightmare) sequences presented in panels make up more than half the pages, expanding the vision and intensifying the impact of Hoban’s words. … The spare, low-key telling heightens the paintings’ emotional heft. … This … inventive work is most likely to be appreciated for its artistic vision.
This is a spare allegory, and Deacon’s illustrations complement and extend the brief text. … The art highlights the feverish terror of Jim’s dreams… Sophisticated art… The unique story and remarkable art warrant this a place in library collections.
—School Library Journal
The intensity of the imagery calls to mind the respect afforded to children’s emotional capacities found in Shaun Tan’s “The Red Tree." … Just what the doctor ordered for children with vivid imaginations facing their own traumatic ordeals.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Compelling and disquieting, Deacon’s artwork, a dazzling emotional tour de force, takes this old story to exciting new levels.
—Jules Danielson, Kirkus Reviews
Breathtaking… The book is a lovely blurring of what is dream, what is reality, as Jim finds courage to free himself from his fears. … Inspiring.
—The Buffalo News
The deftly illustrated watercolor paintings support the delicate tone of the text.
—Library Media Connection