Mr. Tiger, you rascal. The first time I saw art from this book, I wondered if I might be suffering from leaf motif overload. Between Jon Klassen and Lane Smith and a heap of others, I was beginning to tire of stylized leaves and trees, especially the ones that are computer manipulated and repeated. But then I read the book. And I was wowed. (And though it is NOT PART OF THE CRITERIA, my second graders were wowed and amused, too.)
So, it’s all about the color. One color, actually. And that color is orange — yellow-infused, nearly-neon, pop-from-the-page orange. This tiger is not interested in camouflage, no ma’am! The other colors — browns and blacks and grays — serve as a foil for that orange, especially when Mr. Tiger is tiny and disdainful of his life in his proper town or, later, when he explores the wilderness.
It’s also all about pacing — three spreads of Mr. Tiger feeling trapped, three spreads on four legs, three spreads of acting crazy, one spread of naked tiger, three spreads of running away, two spreads of going nuts, one of missing home, and three of return, and one of seeing things at home changed just a bit. And, as with Max in Where the Wild Things Are, it was still hot.
Yes, when I read it aloud the second time, it hit me that Mr. Tiger is reminiscent of another wild thing. The story is similar — the longing for wildness and freedom which is balanced by the desire for home. The visual pacing, especially the adventures with the waterfalls and creatures in the wilderness and his later desire to be home, feels a bit like an homage to Max. Now, I have no idea if any of this was in the mind of Peter Brown, but I love feeling that connection, especially when it’s done in such an amusing and heartfelt way. Though I felt that connection, I imagine the author, who hails from a cramped city, was thinking more about the joys of the wild and the inevitable return home. It’s part of the joy of reading that the reader gets to connect with the story she reads, no matter what the author intended.
Enough psychology for one day.
Things I appreciate:
- the use of humor (it’s hard not to laugh out loud at the naked Mr. T and, later, when he is clad in a Hawaiian shirt)
- the way Brown intersperses busy pages where everything is small with the occasional spread that is all white space and tiger (the pages with four images of decreasing height, the all-fours tiger and the spread with the newly-nude tiger)
- the pacing, including the circular nature of the story
- deft use of where the eyes are pointed (at the beginning, Mr. T can only look straight out)
- subtle facial expressions (I especially love the page where the tiger is chasing his friends and they are smiling, as if they, too, might like to go wild, and the fountain page where Mr. Tiger sheds his clothing.)
- the use of color (It’s a green, green world in that wilderness at first, but the green looks sad when he misses home.)
- the theme (“Now Mr. Tiger felt free to be himself / And so did everyone else.”)
Have you been able to see this one yet? If so, what do you think about it? How does it stack up with the other titles you have read this year?