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Straight from YouTube to book

By / December 9, 2008



It has to be one of the stranger stories in publishing history, but it may also turn out to be one of the more successful. And it may just send more publishers scurrying to YouTube for book ideas.

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Last year a video of two men and a lion became a global phenomenon on YouTube. Seen by more than 44 million viewers, it showed two young men in 1960s-style garb receiving an exuberantly loving greeting from a lion in the wild.

The story behind the video was a remarkable one. In 1969 Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall, Australians living in London, bought a  lion cub in the pet department of Harrods. (This was legal at the time. They later said they bought him because they felt sad seeing him in a cage.)

They kept and enjoyed Christian (as they called him) with them in London as long as they could. But soon he was too big.

Through a chance meeting with the stars of the movie "Born Free," they were led to send Christian to lion expert George Adamson in Kenya. Adamson was able to successfully reintroduce Christian into the wild.

A year later Bourke and Rendell traveled to Kenya, hoping to catch a glimpse of Christian. They were warned that he was now integrated into a pride of wild lions and would not know them.

The experts were wrong. Christian did know them. And he was overjoyed to see them.

Someone shot a film of their joyous reunion. That's the clip that's began circulating like wild on YouTube last year. If you haven't seen it yet, be forewarned. It's pretty much impossible to watch Christian leaping on and hugging his former mates without weeping.

Anyway, in 1971 Bourke and Rendell published a book called "A Lion Named Christian" that told their story. It had long since been forgotten.

But according to Bookseller.com, that book has now been picked up and will be released with new photos. In addition, a version of the  book will be re-written for children 7-11.

Random House is predicting that "A Lion Named Christian" will "become one of the great classics of animal literature."

They may be right. There are many of us fascinated by the human-animal bond and this is certainly a remarkable demonstration of the potential depth of that attachment.

But perhaps almost as fascinating will prove to be the story of how a new technology brought attention to a worthy but nearly forgotten true tale.

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