Review: The Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber

Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber

The Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber, illustrated by Joohee Yoon

Released September 15, 2015.

Thurber’s profound story is brought to vivid life in this new picture book version. Tiger wakes up and decides that he wants to be king of the beasts, declaring to his wife that he will be king before the night is over. He believes that others are calling for change as well and that the moon will rise in his colors, striped and orange. Lion though is not willing to give up his title. The two start fighting and soon all of the animals in the jungle are fighting too, though many don’t know why they are fighting. Eventually after an immense battle, there is only one survivor, Tiger. He may be king, but there are no beasts to rule any more.

Yoon takes the words of Thurber and creates a picture book that is startling and incredible. She captures in expressions, the pride of declaring yourself to be a ruler, the shock of the old ruler being challenged. The epic battle is shown on pages that fold out to a four-page spread that brings to mind Picasso’s Guernica in its confusion and brutality. Done in only two colors, the green and orange capture the moist heat of the jungle. Though the illustrations appear to be prints, they are actually done with a combination of hand drawing and computer art. However it was done, it is pure brilliance.

A great book to spur discussion about war, pride and costs, this picture book will resonate with young readers. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: Naughty Kitty! by Adam Stower

naughty kitty

Naughty Kitty! by Adam Stower

A follow up to Silly Doggy!, this book also features Lily and now a very large cat.  From the end pages, readers will know that there is an animal loose from the zoo.  Lily though is far too taken up with bringing her new kitten home.  Her mother was sure that Kitty wouldn’t be any trouble at all.  At first that was true, but when Lily left the kitten alone in the kitchen for just a moment, she returned to find it completely trashed.  What Lily doesn’t know but the readers could see clearly was that the tiger that had escaped from the zoo was the one who made the mess.  The same thing happened when Lily left Kitty alone in the living room.  There is even a rug that is ruined with an accident of large proportions.  Happily, Lily remains completely oblivious to the tiger and in the end Kitty gets the credit rather than the blame for what the tiger has done. 

Stower’s humor is zingy and broad here.  He doesn’t hold back on the visual jokes or on Lily’s reactions to the actually sedate little cat.  Children will immediately get the humor of mistaken identity and will pay close attention to spot the tiger on the pages where Lily can’t seem to see him.  The ending is completely satisfying, particularly because Lily continues to be oblivious to what is actually happening around her and readers will be surprised by a full view of the truth as well.

The art tells much of the story here with the narrative almost entirely from Lily’s perspective.  The tiger can be spotted right before each disaster and right afterwards too.  The illustrations are energetic and filled with action and the entire book reads like a cartoon episode.

Funny and a great read aloud, this book is sure to keep attention focused and kids giggling.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Orchard Books.

Review: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

mr tiger goes wild

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger was bored with the proper life he was living.  Filled with tea and stilted conversation each day, he longed to get wild.  Then one day, he does just that by starting to walk on four legs instead of two.  He felt better immediately.  And each day, got wilder yet: roaring, casing people, bounding across rooftops.  Then he took it one more step and left his clothes behind.  The other disapproved and sent him off to live in the wilderness unless he could change back and act properly.  So Mr. Tiger headed off.  The wilderness was glorious and Mr. Tiger went completely wild.  However, he also missed the people he left behind in town.  When he headed back to society though, he found that he’d had quite an impact without even knowing it.

This is a stellar picture book.  Brown tells a story that all children can relate to, that of being too wild and too loud and not acting appropriately.  The storytelling is exemplary with perfect pacing and plenty of humor.  That story is well-matched with the bright and bold illustrations.  From the get-go the orange of Mr. Tiger pops from the page, particularly when everything else is dirty sepia toned.  There are glorious moments, including the one where Mr. Tiger is wearing no clothes at all. 

This picture book is a welcome antidote to books on manners.  After all, we all need more wild in our lives.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth

tiger in my soup

Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jeffery Ebbeler

When a boy is left in the care of his big sister, all he wants her to do is read his book to him.  But she’s too busy reading her own book.  He tries to read his book on his own, but it isn’t the same.  She just keeps ignoring him until he asks for lunch.  Then she heats up some soup and gives him a bowl.  That’s when the action starts and a tiger comes out of the soup.  The boy battles him, stabbing him with a spoon and chasing him around the kitchen.  His sister continues to read, ignoring all of the ruckus.  It isn’t until the tiger is chased back into the soup that she agrees to read the book to him.  But wait, this book has a final toothy surprise.

Sheth has created a loving older sister who is just too caught up in her own book to have any time to spend with her younger brother.  It makes me very happy to see two siblings arguing over which book to read right then.  I also enjoyed the boy trying to read to himself, turning the book this way and that and even trying with his eyes closed.  Throughout the book there is a wonderful sense of playfulness.

Ebbeler’s illustrations are just as playful.  He plays with perspective especially in the outdoor scenes.  Then when the tiger arrives, he is wonderfully real, his fur stands on end, his claws threaten and his teeth gleam.  The action scenes are rivetingly fun, the escapades daring. 

Jaunty and devoted to reading, this book is a compelling mix of stories and action.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.

Review: It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle

its a tiger

It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard

The story starts in the jungle filled with vines and trees.  You can look at the monkeys swinging around, but wait!  That’s not a monkey.  It looks like… a tiger! Run!  Whew.  Now we are safe inside a cave.  You’ll have to watch for bats and duck your head.  Wait, some of those shadows look like… a tiger!  Run!  The escapade continues through the jungle with snakes, but then you head on a boat to a deserted island.  Sure you are safe there.  Right?  Roar!

This fast-paced race through the jungle is exactly what squirmy toddlers need at the end of a story time.  The book has a great sense of timing and plenty of action.  The repetition of the tiger appearing over and over again, will have children merrily joining in and shouting along.  This is not a quiet book for contemplative reading, but instead a jolly book that will have children making plenty of noise. 

Tankard’s art is a huge part of the appeal here.  The thick-lined, orange ferocity of the tiger plays against the finer lines and subtler colors of the background.  The little boy who joins you in your trek through the jungle is also drawn in the thicker lines and pops on the page.  There is a feeling of motion and action throughout the book that brings the story even more fully to life.

A great pick for toddler story time, this is one book to have in your pile for when kids get restless.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Book Review: Dorje’s Stripes by Anshumani Ruddra


Dorje’s Stripes by Anshumani Ruddra, illustrated by Gwangjo and Jung-a Park

In a small Buddhist temple in the Himalayas, the monks have an unusual visitor, a Royal Bengal tiger named Dorje.  Dorje is very unusual himself, because his coat has no stripes.  In the two years since he arrived at the monastery, they disappeared one by one.  One evening, the youngest monk noticed that Dorje had one stripe again!  One of the monks tells the story of when he entered Dorje’s dreams and saw that as Dorje lost each stripe, a tiger had died.  Now there was a new tiger in the wilderness, a female tiger, who seemed to have taken a liking to Dorje.  Soon perhaps, his coat will fill again with stripes.

Inspired by the tragic loss of tigers in India, this story vividly tells of the loss in a way that children will easily relate to.  The story is quietly told through Dorje himself and the voices of the monks.  It is a story that speaks gently about horrors beyond children’s comprehension, making them tangible and understandable. 

Ruddra’s tone is one of respect and awe for this creature.  He takes his time to tell the story to its fullest, offering inspiration along the way.  The illustrations are glowing with bright colors that capture the coat of Dorje and the world of the monastery.  The watercolors have been allowed to bleed a bit, creating auras around things.  At other times, the painting is tight and controlled.  The two play against each other, showing the wild next to the tame.

This is a lovely and inspiring book about threatened species.  It captures the plight, the loss and the recovery in one beautiful story.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Kane Miller EDC Publishing.

Tiny Little Fly: A Delight of a Book


Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron

British Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen has created another delight of a picture book.  Readers follow the adventures of Tiny Little Fly as he buzzes past some impressive animals.  Great Big Elephant tries to catch the fly, but even with all of his tramping and crushing, the fly flies away.  When Tiny Little Fly lands on Great Big Hippo’s ear, the hippo tries to catch him by rolling and squashing.  But the fly flies away.  Even Great Big Tiger, who swoops and snatches at the fly with his pay cannot catch the fly.  Told in a wonderful rhyme with plenty of noise and fun, this book will be right at home in any toddler story time.

Rosen’s verse here is filled with a sense of fun and playfulness.  The repetition in the book gives it a wonderful pace and gait that is a pleasure to read aloud.  Each large animal takes two winks at the fly, then tries in their own way to catch it with plenty of ruckus.  Thanks to the simplicity of the story and the attraction of the large animals, I can see this being made into a felt board story very easily.  It would also convert well into a little play acting with parents or teachers.

Waldron’s illustrations are simple but sophisticated.  They have a mix of timelessness and modernism that is charming.  His use of a natural-feeling background rather than stark white makes for a warm feel throughout the book.  Waldron combines several techniques in these illustrations from ink drawings to paint.  For reading aloud to a group, Waldron’s illustrations work well thanks to their large size.  Additionally, he allows children to guess what the next large animal will be, adding to the pleasure of sharing the book aloud. 

An ideal story time pick, get this one for any insect, tiger, elephant or hippo story time you are planning.  Heck, it’s good enough to use time and again for any reason at all.  A guaranteed hit with the toddler and preschool set.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Read to Tiger


Read to Tiger by S. J. Fore, illustrated by R. W. Alley

Turn on the light, curl up on the couch, open your book, you are ready to read.  But what’s that noise?!  A tiger is behind the couch chomping on gum!  This little boy has one naughty tiger to deal with just as he is settling in for a great read.  After the tiger stops chewing him gum loudly, the tiger growls pretending to be a bear.  Then the tiger starts practicing his karate, with great yells and high kicks.  The tiger then choo-choos past on a train.  And finally picks up the couch itself to look for his whistle.  Finally, the little boy has had enough but just then, the tiger gets a glimpse of the book the boy has been trying to read and its picture of a tiger.  Which may finally be what it takes to keep tiger quiet: a great story shared with a friend.

The humor of this book is evident from the very first encounter with the tiger.  Wonderfully, the zaniness increases as the story goes on, and children are definitely going to be laughing out loud by the time Karate Tiger leaps onto the page.  Fore has tapped into the glee that readers feel when they see the humor in a situation before the narrator in the book does.  They will delight in it.  Fore also has a wonderful pacing to the book with the tiger doing something disruptive, the boy correcting him, and then settling again to read his book, only to have the tiger do something even more outrageous.

Alley’s illustrations add to the action and wild abandon of the book.  Alley’s use of subtle colors next to bright allows readers to feel the snuggly reading time and then to be jolted in turn by tiger and his red and yellow coat in full action.  So much of the humor is visual here, and very successfully so.

If you are looking for a book about the pleasures of reading that is funny and filled with plenty of action, this is it.  Even better, it is the sort of book that itself proves exactly why reading is fun.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.