Picture Book Winner
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
by Peter Brown; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary Little, Brown 48 pp.
9/13 978-0-316-20063-9 $18.00
Mr. Tiger walks upright and wears a top hat and a handsome coat with a bow tie, fitting in with the rest of society. But his orange fur provides the only spot of color in the very drab, very proper community, and Mr. Tiger is bored: “He wanted to loosen up. He wanted to be…wild.” And so, Mr. Tiger drops to all fours and for the first time looks happy. As he gets progressively wilder, roaring and shedding his confining clothes, the town animal-folk are appalled and banish him to the wilderness — which, he decides, is “a magnificent idea.” This is a book made for storytime, with its bold mixed-media illustrations that work almost like a storyboard moving left to right, and a plot with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Children, who get tired of grownups and their requests for proper behavior, will relate to the proud joy Mr. Tiger clearly feels when he is free to be wild, and also to his eventual feelings of loneliness. The happy ending, almost a reverse of Where the Wild Things Are, includes everyone discovering the fun of being at least a little bit wild. SUSAN DOVE LEMPKE
Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me
by Daniel Beaty; illus. by Bryan Collier
Preschool, Primary Little, Brown 40 pp.
12/13 978-0-316-20917-5 $18.00
Each morning, a little boy looks forward to playing the knock-knock game with his father. The boy pretends to be asleep until his dad approaches. “Then I get up and jump into his arms.” One day, though, and for every day after, the boy’s father fails to appear. The appended author’s note explains that Beaty’s own father was incarcerated. In the book, though, the absence is not explained, which makes it a more universal story of loss. A letter from his father helps shore the boy up. The poignant words “as long as you become your best, the best of me still lives in you” let him know his father loves him, even though he is absent. The text, powerful and spare, is well supported by Collier’s watercolor and collage art, which is filled with repeating motifs: elephants for memory, a paper airplane careening, the father’s hat, rainbows and balloons, children’s eager faces, even the Duke Ellington Memorial to signify the little boy’s dream. Though the boy is bereft of a father, he is cared for and loved. His room is filled with toys and books. His mother and, later on, his wife are there to support him and help him move forward. There is a lot going on here, but there is a lot going on in the mind of any child who has been denied a parent, for whatever reason. In this book they will find comfort and inspiration. ROBIN L. SMITH
Rules of Summer
by Shaun Tan; illus. by the author
Primary Levine/Scholastic 56 pp.
5/14 978-0-545-63912-5 $18.99 g
“This is what I learned last summer: Never leave a red sock on the clothesline. Never eat the last olive at a party. Never drop your jar.” The narrator enumerates a dozen other rules, which are printed on left-hand pages that are marked by stains and wrinkles, smudged fingerprints, and streaks of colored-pencil scribbles. The right-hand pages depict, in thickly textured paintings, a young boy (presumably the narrator) and an older boy (perhaps his brother) in a variety of enigmatically surreal situations. The frenemy quality that characterizes many sibling relationships gradually reveals itself here, as the rules seem to be dictated by the older boy, and the younger one never seems to do anything right. They fight, and the younger boy finds himself confined to a prison-like train moving through a dreary subterranean gray landscape for several wordless spreads before the older boy rescues him, restoring peace and harmony. Rules of Summer delivers what Tan’s fans have come to expect: superb artwork that elicits both a cerebral and emotional response and that, when coupled with the text, invites readers to plumb the mysterious depths of the human experience. JONATHAN HUNT