I want to thank those of you who wrote me about my column on The Lion's Paw, a children's book beloved by thousands of Floridians. (See the column at magazine.tampabay.com.) Written by Robb White, published in 1946, The Lion's Paw was read by teachers to generations of Florida children throughout the decades. The book, out of print for years, recently was reissued. Here are a few letters, edited for space.
I was born in Key West and grew up in New Smyrna Beach. My sixth-grade teacher read The Lion's Paw to our class. It was such a wonderful book! Years later, I became a teacher and read the book to my classes. In 1988, our school had a storybook parade. Each class had to vote on their favorite book and make a float to depict the book and its characters. My class voted for The Lion's Paw. We made a sailboat as our float and won first place. My students wrote to Robb White as part of the project and sent him photographs. Weeks later I received a letter from White saying how proud he was of them. The kids were thrilled. I am now retired after 35 years of teaching and have four grandchildren of my own. We are sailors and came close to naming our sailboat The Lion's Paw.
The Lion's Paw is one of my favorite Florida books. I first read this book in fifth grade at Palm Harbor Elementary. Lost my copy several years ago and just ordered three new ones for my own fifth-grade class at Garrison-Jones Elementary. Being a fifth-generation Floridian, I always look for ways to teach my students about Real Florida.
Your headline made my heart jump. Yes, I remember The Lion's Paw. I had to quickly read your article to see if you were talking about the same book Mrs. McCafferey had read to me as a fourth-grader at Gulf Beaches Elementary in the mid 1970s. The only detail that has stayed strong in my mind was the children referring to the orphanage as the "eganahpro.'' What also came back to me was the powerful story that enchanted not just me but the entire class. In my mind Mrs. McCafferey was not only a wonderful teacher but an amazing storyteller. I remember she would turn the lights off in the classroom and read us a chapter each day. It somehow took us away from who we were and we really felt like we were experiencing their struggles. This was one of those first powerful books for me. I guess I wasn't alone.
St. Pete Beach
I saw the words before I even had the newspaper unrolled! I was amazed that a title of the book I remembered so fondly and vividly from my fifth-grade class was actually staring back at me. I loved The Lion's Paw and remember how much I enjoyed my teacher reading it to our class. I love this story and can't wait to share it with both of my little girls.
Read your piece on The Lion's Paw with glee. I was born in 1944 in Sarasota and read that book around 1954. I was lucky enough to grow up in Florida and want my grandchildren to have some idea of Gramma's youth.
Seeing those two words — Lion's Paw — awoke in me a memory from over 50 years ago. I had forgotten, over the many years, my second-grade class in Coronado, Calif., and the teacher who would read us, each day, a chapter. She promised that if we were well-behaved she would read to us a chapter a day. This deal tremendously improved law and order in her class, for none of us, after listening to just the first 10 pages, wanted to risk forfeiture of each day's installment.
The principal of Woodlawn Elementary School came into my fourth-grade class and read us that book. Now that I am 50 I still have fond memories of it, and I was able to purchase a copy on eBay last year for $150. I also have an actual lion's paw seashell that I bought from a shop on Sanibel Island.
I read The Lion's Paw when I was 9. The book influenced me so greatly I moved to Florida from Michigan, bought a sailboat, named it The Lion's Paw and made the same trip as The Lion's Paw in the book.