Title: Pride of Baghdad
Author(s): Brian K. Vaughn
Artist(s): Niko Henrichon
Category: Based-On a True Story, Politics, War
Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, Czech, Farsi, German, Turkish, Norwegian, Greek
Grade Level(s): 7-12
Mature Content?: Graphic Violence, Language
In April of 2003, four lions escaped from the zoo in Baghdad, Iraq during a US bombing raid. They were later shot and killed by US soldiers. In Pride of Baghdad, Vaughn imagines the quartet of lions crossing the embattled city and acting as political allegory for the people of Iraq affected by the war. The deluxe edition includes additional materials at the back featuring sketches, Vaughn’s original pitch, and a short discussion of the characters that reveals some of the allegorical intent behind their design.
While Pride of Baghdad doesn’t explicitly address the Iraq war, it does give a sense of the destruction and devastation in the region and provide a backdrop to discuss the ravages of war. Within its text, it directly brings up questions of symbolism and themes of freedom and captivity. It also surveys a number of Baghdad landmarks, though it does not name them nor explain their significance, making teaching them require deep knowledge or support. Pride of Baghdad provides a canvas on which other texts and information can play. It also provides opportunities to address gender roles (female lions as hunter) and non-traditional families (multiple mates). It can be used as a focal point for a unit on allegory or a supporting text. The pleasure of reading Pride of Baghdad is of greater value than its classroom significance, but it’s still a useful text both for teaching moments and for student engagement potential.