#BookReview: Lion Scream: Syllabic Poetry About South African Life

Click on cover to purchase from Amazon.

My Review

Robbie Cheadle’s latest release, Lion Scream, is a book-length photo essay prompted by visits she and her family made to the South African bush. The book comprises photography (including a cake art piece), poetry, commentary, and short fiction to provide a range of perspectives on the plight of wild animals in Cheadle’s home country.

I found the photo essay form to be particularly well-suited to the author’s intent: “to share insights about the impact of habitat loss, hunting, and poaching on the wild animals of South Africa . . .” (“About My Poems and Photographs,” p. 3).

The photographs clearly communicate that these animals are in their natural habitat, and their natural habitat is where they belong. Moreover, humans need to respect their natural habitat as such. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words”!

That said, the book’s commentary is necessary to inform the reader of what humans are doing “outside the frame” of the photographs to endanger not only the wild animals of South Africa but also their habitat. For example:

“As of 2022, the Knysna elephant population that once consisted of about 1,000, has been reduced to a single adult female” (“My Experiences with Elephants,” p. 24).

I found that the book’s highly effective use of still photography (with links to YouTube videos of the animals’ behavior) raised the question of whether zoos’ purported role of educating children about animals from other parts of the world is still necessary in the Digital Age–and whether that role was even valid justification for removing animals from the wild to be put on display in the first place.

The syllabic poetry speaks in several different voices, again, to provide multiple perspectives on a problem that cries out to be heard. In “Rhino Dilemma,” for example, the speaker is an unseen witness to the horror of poachers’ hacking off the living animal’s horn. In “Vacancies,” the poacher directly addresses “all rhinos” in a voice that calls to mind snake oil salesmen. Several poems speak in the animals’ voices, as well as the poet’s voice as observer.

The short story that concludes the book, “The Nutcracker,” is unequivocal in its message:

“As for climate change, I’m going to research what we can do to change our lifestyle and make a real difference. It is the least I can do for my daughter, for my Irene . . . and for Alex too. We must do our bit to secure his future.”

Lion Scream is a book that wears its heart on its sleeve. I can only hope the lion’s scream will be heard and, most importantly, heeded.

About the Author

Award-winning, bestselling author, Robbie Cheadle, has published thirteen children’s book and two poetry books. Her work has also appeared in poetry and short story anthologies.

Robbie also has two novels published under the name of Roberta Eaton Cheadle and has horror, paranormal, and fantasy short stories featured in several anthologies under this name.

The ten Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision. Find Robbie at https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/.


I’ll leave you with the book’s title tanka written in response to a song many of us grew up with.

Lion Scream

There is no jungle
Only acres of smooth stumps
No habitat, no food source
Hopeless lion screams tonight

When I looked for a recording of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” the following information from Wikipedia caught my eye:

” ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ ” is a song originally written and recorded by Solomon Linda under the title ” ‘Mbube’ ” for the South African Gallo Record Company in 1939. Linda’s original was written in isiZulu, while the English version’s lyrics were written by George David Weiss.”

To my surprise, I was able to find the original recording on YouTube with no trouble at all.

In an even bigger surprise, I found the story behind the song! (The AI narration is a bit off in places, but the information is fascinating. Unfortunately, I was not surprised to learn that Solomon Linda was tricked into signing away his rights to the song because he couldn’t read or write.)

232 thoughts on “#BookReview: Lion Scream: Syllabic Poetry About South African Life

  1. Hi again – I enjoyed the videos and it is sad that the musician signed away his rights – ugh – and hopefully things have changed a ot since then – even though shenanigans still are going on. Like the Dog Whisperer (Cesar Milan) I guess did not sign the correct paperwork for his show and he makes no money from the Dog Whisperer brand.


  2. What a fantastic review for Robbie’s book. The book sounds like a good awakening to people about humanity and nature. And that was sad about how the originator of The Lion Sleeps got rooked for being illiterate. Great share. I tweeted but couldn’t get your name to attach. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great review, Liz!
    I just know this book will break my heart.

    I have a copy, and shall be reading it anon.
    A few things are cluttering my time & mind at present, however, I see uncluttered days ahead.

    I feel this book deserves full attention.
    Thank you Robbie! (and Liz!)

    Liked by 2 people

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