on September 11, 2013
This is about as close to perfection as anything gets in this world! I have been writing and illustrating children's books for over thirty years, so I'm in a position to know. Peter Brown's "Mr. Tiger Goes Wild" may be the most exquisite example of a picture book I've ever seen. It's like a Master Class of the form. First, there's the story, which has the feel of a classic Little Golden Book -- playful, sweet, with a nice message. For most books that would be enough, but it doesn't stop there. The art is gorgeous. But it doesn't stop there. The pacing is flawless, with the wordless spreads just as significant as the text pages. Then, there's the placement of the type itself -- even "The End" is right where it should be. But it doesn't stop there. Fold back the dust jacket and you get a nice surprise that also conveys the theme of the story. I am in awe! If this doesn't win the Caldecott, nobody knows what they're doing anymore -- except, of course, for Peter Brown!
on September 12, 2013
This book arrived at just the perfect time last night! I was getting my 9 year-old son ready for bed and heard the doorbell. I quickly opened the box and handed it to him to read, though I purchased it to use in my teaching internship with Kindergarteners. It was through his first reading that I realized how absolutely perfect the book is. The pacing was spot on. The wordless pages occurred at just the right time. The muted colors and the bold, bright orange of Mr. Tiger add so much to the story. The illustrations do a superb job of serving the purpose that I believe they should in a children's book: to enhance the story. The story itself is so simple and lovely, and it says a lot that an almost 10 year old can enjoy it, even though I believe the intended audience is 4-8. I have read and re-read Mr. Tiger Goes Wild many times today and notice something new in the illustrations each time. So lovely! A perfect addition to a home library as well as a great resource to use in early childhood classrooms.
Here’s a fun exercise to liven up a gloomy day. Find yourself a copy of the picture book “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild”. Now turn to the publication page. It’s the green one opposite the title page at the beginning of the book. Now scroll down until you find the Library of Congress subject headings for this title. The very first one reads, “Self-actualization (Psychology)”. I am no cataloger, nor do I particularly mind it when they attribute terms of this sort to picture books, but anyone can see that this is a pretty amusing way to describe a book about a tiger with issues with civilization. It is rare to find a picture book this easy to love on sight, but author/illustrator Peter Brown is beginning to perfect his form. Hard to believe that the man who started out with “Flight of the Dodo” and “Chowder” has figured out how one goes about writing and illustrating modern day classics. With influences as diverse as Rousseau and 1960s Disney animators, Brown creates a wholly believable universe in a scant number of pages. Now prepare to turn said pages over and over and over again.
No one expected Mr. Tiger to be such a troublemaker. At first he was like everyone else. Sporting starched collars and silk top hats. Attending dignified tea parties and engaging in the usual chitchat about the weather that day. But Mr. Tiger is bored. “He wanted to loosen up. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to be… wild.” But wildness is not tolerated in the city, a fact Mr. Tiger discovers when his explorations into wildness involve pouncing across the rooftops, roaring in public, and going au naturel. It’s that final sin that has him dismissed from the city to the wilderness, where he gets to completely let go. It’s great for a time, but soon Mr. Tiger misses his friends and his home. When he returns he finds more comfortable clothes and the fact that the people there have loosened up a bit themselves, thanks in no small part to his influence.
Now I know there are folks out there for whom “The Curious Garden” is the top of the pops and Brown will never be able to make anything that good again. And that was a very nice book, no question but here is a book where Brown has hit his stride. First off, he has tackled the old anthropomorphic animal question; If you put a tiger in a suit, is he even a tiger anymore? Kids are very used to seeing animals wearing clothes and fulfilling human roles. I’ve always said that if you ever want to write a book about adults for kids, all you need to do is turn those adults into furry woodland creatures (hey, it worked for “Redwall”!). The idea that an animal might want to return to its wilder roots is a novel one for them. Imagine if Donald Duck tore off his sailor suit to peck at bread on the water, or Mickey Mouse removed those red shorts and started hunting down some cheese rinds. It’s almost, but not quite, obscene. Brown taps into that seeming obscenity, and uses it to give kids a mighty original tale.
2013 was a very good year for picture books with wordless two-page spreads. When used incorrectly, such spreads stop the action dead. Used correctly, they make the child reader stop and think. In a particularly “Miss Rumphius”-ish two-pager, Mr. Tiger walks alone in a wide-open field. He isn’t prancing or running or leaping anymore. His expression is utterly neutral. It’s just him and the flowers and the scrub bushes. Little wonder that when you turn the page he’s lonely once more. Brown uses this spread to bridge the gap between Mr. Tiger’s catharsis and his desire for company. Without it, the sudden shift in mood would feel out-of-character.
It’s hard to find folks who dislike this book but occasionally one comes out. The only real criticism I’ve seen of it was when I heard someone complain that Brown’s style is just like a lot of books coming out these days, particularly those of Jon Klassen. Hardly fair, though you can see what they mean when you hold this up next to “This Is Not My Hat”. But Brown is quite capable of manipulating his own style when he sees fit. Compare this book to others he’s made and you’ll see the difference. The noir feel of “Creepy Carrots” or the folksy faux wood border of “Children Make Terrible Pets” are a far cry from Mr. Tiger’s Rousseau-like setting. Brown has culled his influences over the years, and in this particular book he flattens the images purposefully, emulating the backgrounds of 1960s Disney films like “Sleeping Beauty”. The colors here are particularly deliberate. There’s the orange of Mr. Tiger (and his speech balloons), the green of the wilderness, and the orange of the sun. Beyond these and the blue of Mr. Tiger’s new shirt and the water of the fountain/waterfall, the palette is tightly controlled. And that doesn’t feel like anyone’s choice but Mr. Brown’s.
Another criticism I encountered came from someone who felt that the ending didn’t make sense to them. The animals all criticize Mr. Tiger then emulate him in his absence? But I have read and reread and reread again this book to my 2-year-old enough times that I know precisely how to answer such questions. Look closely and you’ll see that while some animals are very vocal in their disapproval of Mr. Tiger’s free-to-be-you-and-me ways, others are less perturbed. For example, in one scene Mr. Tiger is leaping from rooftop to rooftop. As he does so a bevy of onlookers comment on his actions. True, a bear shakes his fist and declares the tiger to be “Unacceptable” but look at the rhino and bunny. One is saying “Wow” and one “Hmm.” Then there’s the nude sequence (perhaps the only picture book centerfold shot in the history of the genre). First off, the pigeons are riveted. I loved that. And yes, a bunch of animals are pointing out of town, indicating that he should leave. But there’s a young fox that is absolutely enthralled by his actions, you can tell. It’s clear he has a far-reaching influence. I wasn’t surprised at all by the changes in his absence then.
Every child is a battlefield. In them rage twin desires, compelling in different ways and at different times. One desire is for the wildness Mr. Tiger craves. To run and yell and just go a little wild. The other desire is for order and organization and civilization. What “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” does so well is to tap into these twin needs, and then produce a kind of happy medium between them. To entirely deny one side or another (or to entirely indulge one side or another) is an unhealthy exercise. We’ve not many books that touch on the importance of balance in your life, but let me just say that the lesson Mr. Tiger learns here would probably be greatly appreciated by large swaths of the adult population. Kiddos aren’t the only ones that chafe under their proverbial starched collars. A grand, great book with a lot of very smart things to say. Listen up.
For ages 2-7.
on October 7, 2013
I had heard so much buzz about Mr. Tiger Goes Wild that I had to find out what all the excitement was about. Now that I've read the book and seen the artwork, I completely understand the buzz, the excitement and the Caldecott-worthy talk.
My little boy, who is almost five, is wild about Mr. Tiger. I, who am a good deal older than five, am also wild about Mr. Tiger. First of all, there is a story. A straight-forward, progressive, easy-to-follow story. And there is a twist, as there is in all good stories. And a most satisfying conclusion. And even, not so much a moral, but advice at the end. The text is well-chosen to define the characters and to propel the story forward.
The artwork is magnificent. My son, who can only read a few words on his own, including the "ROAR", could still tell me the story from the illustrations. The grey, contained city looks nothing like the lush, green wilderness. At least at first. By the end of the story, everyone is happy and that shows very clearly in the final illustrations.
My little boy read this book from cover to cover, including the end-papers and the jacket flap. He thinks Peter Brown is Mr. Tiger in disguise.
My 3 year 5 month old granddaughter loves to have this book read at bedtime. It's a story about a young tiger who decides that everyone around him is too conventional , always having to wear the proper clothes and stand on two legs, so off he goes into the wild, where he sheds his "civilized ways" by no longer wearing clothes and living in a house, and instead running around on all four legs in the jungle. But he becomes very lonely and returns to his home, only he gets the other tigers there to loosen up a bit and not be so conformist.
I'm sure my granddaughter doesn't really appreciate the "message" about striking a balance between your "wild side" and the demands of living in society, but she does find the book very entertaining. As she grows older I'm sure the book's "message" will resonate more with her.
The artwork is first rate and the text is very simple and direct. This is a very visually appealing book, which is important for a young child. It's one of the most creative and clever children's books that I have seen.
on October 2, 2013
"AGAIN". That's what our two year old said the first time after we read him "Mr. Tiger Goes Wild". The large format of the book, the striking images that tell the whole story along with the text was a story he could relate to in many ways, it held the attention of a two year old through many repetitions and that's a great complement for any children's book. The images of all the animals delighted him, but he understood the story emotionally as well. I would not ask that this book be a "lesson" in when it is appropriate to be "wild" or not... the strength of the book is in it's imaginative, fun, vivid images and the ease of connecting emotionally to the story even if a two year old doesn't understand all the words of the text, or the "message" of balance that is struck at the end. The images of the Tiger, throwing off his clothes, jumping into the fountain, and then "going wild" before finding himself alone in the forest (and then returning to the city, but with a different attitude) had the perfect balance of playfulness and style. This is a book that's going to be read over and over again.
on December 19, 2013
The artwork in this book is stunning. It reminds me of John Klassen's art a little bit. I love Peter Brown's style and his ability to direct your eye where it needs to go. One of the things I love about illustrators that author their own books is that they have the uncanny ability to make the words and pictures work together seamlessly. They play each off the other and bring both together to make the book a beautiful piece of art.
Some books are just destined to be classics. This is one of them. I had a good laugh with my kids when Mr. Tiger takes things "too far". I also like the way he doesn't totally give up his old life. He just needs a change, and so he crosses over to the wild side for a bit.
This book is really cute and will appeal to kids ages 2 and up. Definitely a must-have book for any kid's home library!
on December 17, 2013
Mr.Tiger doesn't like following all the rules that his civilization requires, and breaks away to be "wild". He finds that he can be both civilized and wild at times, and influences his civilization to be "wild", too. Funny, with a good story for loosening up, and accepting tigers (people) as they are.
on November 17, 2014
Everyone should at least read this! Great gift. Gave it to a few friends, and my daughter, and everyone always loves it.
I love the illustrations, the colors, the way the colors tell and enhance the story, and the overlying message of nonconformity.
Its too easy to send the message to kids that being a good citizen is equal to fitting in and playing your part, even if we don't mean to. I really like that the character took time away from his community to find himself, realized he missed the life that had held him back, and found when he returned that he actually made a wonderful difference just by being true to himself. ...all in a toddler way of course.
get it, you'll love it too.
The illustrations in Mr. Tiger are beautiful with a charming uniqueness that my children and I loved.
Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the story of Mr. Tiger. I wasn't quite sure what the point of the story was. I felt badly for Mr. Tiger that he didn't feel comfortable expressing his true self with his friend and felt he had to run away to the jungle to be himself. I was hoping he was going to be joined by some of his friends who'd been feeling the same way. But no, he was out there all alone, friendless and solitary. He was missing the city and his friends and when he returns to them he discovers that everyone has gone a little wild while he was away and now he fits right in.
I wasn't sure what the message was...run away and when you come back things will be better? It left me wanting a little something more, a little feel good message a little friendship, a little something...
But my kids love this and think the naked animals running across the last page with just their hats on is cute as hell, and they're right, they are.