Picks and Pans Review: Zamba: the True Story of the Greatest Lion That Ever Lived

UPDATED 08/08/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/08/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Ralph Helfer

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Animal trainer Ralph Helfer follows his successful Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived with a tale of his 18 years with Zamba, the orphaned African cub he adopted in the mid-1950s and who became part of his family. Using Zamba as a model, Helfer set out to demonstrate that affection training—rewarding animals with love rather than controlling them with fear—would allow him to safely work with even the most dangerous creatures. Some peers thought he was nuts.

Readers will get a wonderful, detailed and—in all likelihood—unique account of what it's like to share life, home and bed with a more than 500-lb. lion. Toilet training? No problem, actually. Cruising around Hollywood in a station wagon with Zamba's magnificent head thrust out a window? Amusing. And there's always the question: Will Zamba eat the nice postman? Helfer's prose can be treacly, but Zamba is a charming read—a love story between a quiet boy from Chicago's South Side and a mellow cat who came to call Hollywood home.

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