Willoughby & the Lion by Greg Foley
Willoughby Smith has just moved and hates his new house. It is much smaller than this old house and it's in the middle of a field, too far from any possible friend. The landscape is bare except for a large rock right in the middle of his back yard. One day, Willoughby finds a golden lion sitting on the rock. The lion grants the boy ten wishes but warns him that "unless you wish for the most wonderful thing of all, I'll be stuck on this rock forever." Willoughby's first wish was for a larger home. The lion closed his eyes and when he opened them again, a castle-like mansion sat where Willoughby's house used to be. Willoughby wishes for giant roller-coasters filled with children, gigantic cakes, shoes that'll make him super fast (followed by other shoes that would make him even faster), a hot-air-balloon-submarine, and even books with all the answers to any kind of homework. His backyard is packed with crowds coming to see Willoughby and his enchanted lion. After nine wishes though, Willoughby still hadn't wished for the most wonderful thing of all, and he found the lion crying slouched over the rock. The lion told him how much he missed being free to roam the fields with other lions. As the boy tried to cheer the lion up, they spent hours playing together. As darkness fell upon them, Willoughby whispered in the lions ear. In the morning the lion was gone, and everything looked just as before the wishes, except that on top the rock there was now a golden coin that read: TRUE FRIEND.
Willoughby & the Lion is a tale of friendship. The illustrations are black and white and metallic gold. At first, everything is drawn in black and white lines, except for the lion who is gold. Every wish granted is painted gold. Wish by wish the gold takes over the pages. The glossy white of the pages makes the gold pop. When Willoughby sets the lion free with his last wish, the landscape goes back to normal, and now the sunrise is decorated with golden rays. I love the fact that aside from learning about friendship from the Lion, Willoughby wakes up to see everything under a different light. The house he thought was tiny and awful, he now sees as "a cozy house" in the "middle of an open yard." The coin he finds laying atop the rock is an actual keepsake that comes with the book. This is a very special book.