Monty's Magnificent Mane by Gemma O'Neill


“No one else has a mane quite like his. Monty thinks it’s magnificent.

Gemma O’Neill’s first picture book “Oh Dear, Geoffrey!” was a visual treat about a rather clumsy and tall giraffe. And Monty’s Magnificent Mane is also filled with engaging exquisite artworks in mixed media. Gemma knows her characters and her artworks brings her characters to life. You feel the expressions and emotions in the characters eyes, tails and paws.

Monty’s Magnificent Mane is perfect for exploring how we can tell that a character is proud or not amused. Love the way Monty the lion is admiring his own mane on the first spread. There is no doubt about it – Monty is very proud of his mane.


A troop of meerkats put colourful feathers in Monty’s mane. But he is not amused and he stomps off to check his reflection in the waterhole. He is too busy stomping to hear his friends’ warning.

“Remember to be careful of the . . .”


Monty’s new friend cheers him up by flattering him. But the crocodile’s eyes and eyebrows suggest that this is not a true friend. The crocodile follows Monty and. . .

“Meerkats!” gloats the hungry crocodile.

“My favourite!”

The picture of the terrified meerkats is one of my favourites. You can see the terror in the meerkats if you look at the way they hold their heads and their mouths. And Monty realises that friendship is more important than looks.

Sparking Thinkibility Inspiration

Monty’s Magnificent Mane is a perfect introduction to talk about friendship.

You can make a Fortune Teller where you describe a good friend. Thus instead of writing down what will happen in the future, you  describe friendship.

Found two adorable Fortune Teller Lions at Moodkids – here and here. You can print out the template and write words in the lion’s mouth that describe a friend or the importance of being or having a friend.


We made a lion with a beautiful mane by gluing some pipe liners onto a paper lion. We cut out two heart shapes to make head of the lion.


Then we thought about other ways to make the lion’s mane look pretty and we picked some flowers and arranged them. You can also use, ribbons, feathers, glass beads. . .


The last idea is inspired by the book The Picture Book Maker: The art of the children’s picture book writer and illustrator by Karenanne Knight. This book is perfect if you are looking for practical tips about making a picture book. In one of the chapters Karenanne describes “Characters and Characterization”. There are several exercises that helps an illustrator to develop the characters. The book “Oh Dear, Geoffrey!” by Gemma O’Neill is used as an example of model sheet in the book. You can see some illustrations by Gemma here and here.

I am sure that children would also love to make a model sheet of the mouth or ear of a character when they are writing a story. Or the eyebrows. . . noses. . . ears. . . Or why not make a model sheet of Monty’ mouth. The book is filled with drawings of Monty’s big mouth. . .

Photos Gemma O’Neill

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