In the first few pages of Portland author and illustrator Cat Champion's latest picture book, Scorpion Saves the Night, a maniacal orange lion who has burnt half the world to a crisp confesses his ultimate desire: "I wish to be the most powerful, most feared and most dangerous king the world has ever seen."
That wish is foiled by a political savvy of a group of young girls, among them a scorpion armed with the power of the democratic process.
Coming just weeks before the presidential election, Champion admits the book gives no illusion of political neutrality.
"It's kind of like throwing a water balloon at a forest fire," Champion says, "but every little bit helps."
Drawing has long been Champion's source of personal healing. A tattoo artist by trade, they released Depression Cats, an oddball coloring book, in 2018, designed for anyone who wanted "something else to do other than being sad."
For their second release, representation and accessibility were a priority from the beginning. A full reading of the book is available on YouTube, and Champion chose to offer free Kindle downloads for the first five days following publication.
Champion left rural Oklahoma for Portland over a decade ago, but the heroes of Scorpion Saves the Night were inspired by the women they grew up with—people who returned kicks in the face from horses with punches of their own.
Rather than feeding into the one-dimensional trope of the "tough woman," something that runs through most children's literature, Champion decided to write characters that acted more like the real women they know.
"When I moved away I realized that a lot of the world was populated by people like that," Champion says. "I wanted to honor that. My hope is that both parents and young ladies look at it and see someone who looks a little more like them and think, 'Maybe I can grow up and possess a little magic and power of my own.'"
Scorpion Saves the Night can be purchased through Amazon or at catchampion.com.