Written and Illustrated by Peter Brown
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger.
The plot in a nutshell: A tiger adds some excitement to his life
Mr. Tiger finds regular life to be a little dull, with everyone behaving properly all the time. He wants things to be more fun. One day, he drops down and starts walking around on all fours instead of upright. He chases others around and even roars from time to time. His friends are shocked, especially when he goes so far as to stop wearing clothes. Society tells him that the place is be wild is in the wilderness, so he takes off to the jungle, where he happily runs free. But he finds that the wilderness is a solitary place and he misses his friends. When he returns, he sees that some of his friends have added a little more ‘wild’ into their lives and they all find their way to live harmoniously.
Before I had read this book, I kept seeing it pop up on prediction lists for the 2013 Caldecott Medal and it’s easy to see why. Author/illustrator Peter Brown has a fantastic eye for design that seems to incorporate every part of the book into the story experience. The front inside cover, for example, is a brick wall and the back inside cover is a field filled with wild plants. Underneath the slipcover, the book’s hardcover is bright orange with black stripes. The book’s artwork was done with India ink, watercolor, gouache and pencil, with digital composition and coloring. The book opens with artwork in very drab grey and sepia tones with Mr. Tiger standing out in bright orange.
Of course, this serves to illustrate how strongly he doesn’t fit in with his community, which gives more meaning to his actions. As he pushes beyond the boundaries of what’s acceptable, pay attention to the other characters around him. Some are shocked and dismayed by his behavior, while you can also see that others appear more curious than judgmental. There are good messages here about being true to yourself and being willing to step outside what everyone else considers normal to find what is right for you.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that a community is at its best when everyone can live the life that makes them happiest.