Aline Pereira is an independent writer, editor and editorial consultant specializing in multicultural children’s books and was Managing Editor of PaperTigers from 2004 until January 2011. In honor of PaperTigers’ 10th anniversary Aline wrote an article entitled Celebrating PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: What a Smilestone! which you can read here, and now offers up her Top 10 Tiger Themed Books.
One tiger, two tigers… ten tigers! More tigers! by Aline Pereira
Children love to ask each other about their favorite animals, and their answers usually reveal much about themselves: what they fear, what they love, and what they need and want from the world.
In celebration of PaperTigers’ 10th anniversary, I put together a list of ten (plus one to grow on) multicultural books featuring tigers, a graceful, alluring and majestic animal– often mentioned as a “favorite” of children–which is a symbol of all that is splendid and powerful in nature. I thought PaperTigers’ 10th’ anniversary would be a good occasion to celebrate tigers and remind children and adults that, without the proper protective measures, tigers in the wild may disappear by 2022–within a decade!–the next Year of the Tiger.
Tigers are an important part of the reality and mythology of many countries, including Bangladesh, China, India, Korea and Thailand. Throughout history, tigers have been regarded as auspicious animals, as guardians and protectors. Indian mythology, for instance, has several stories where the tiger is believed to have powers to do everything from fighting dragons to creating rain to keeping children safe from nightmares. According to a 2010 statement by the Global Tiger Initiative, “The loss of tigers and degradation of their ecosystems would inevitably result in a historic, cultural, spiritual, and environmental catastrophe for the tiger-range countries [Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and Russia].”
It’s my hope that this book list will help children learn more about tigers and the ways in which they feature, literally and metaphorically, in stories from far and near.
The tigers are ROARING!… Can you hear them?
Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
In Crouching Tiger, an American boy learns to appreciate his Chinese heritage with the help of his grandfather, who is visiting from China.
Little Vinson is intrigued by grandpa’s Tai Chi routine: “He crouched like a tiger; he drew an invisible bow; he lifted a foot like a rooster and stood still,” but when grandpa tries to teach him how to do it, he thinks tai chi isn’t as interesting as kung fu, which he already knows. When grandpa calls him by his Chinese name, which happens all the time, Vinson finds it annoying, but little by little, he begins to understand and feel pride in his heritage.
Nascimbene’s gorgeous illustrations capture the excitement of the parade and convey the boy’s emotional shift from annoyance to curiosity to pride very well. An author’s note at the end adds depth to the story by explaining Chinese martial arts and Chinese New Year traditions.
A 2011 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, Tiger and Turtle is the retelling of an Afghani folktale.
Tiger and Turtle are not friends but have learned to live peacefully (“A tiger’s claws could not harm a turtle’s shell any more than a turtle’s feet could outrun a tiger’s.”). However, when a beautiful flower floats down from the sky and lands by their feet, the two animals start arguing about who should have it, who saw it first, and so on, and end up getting into a terrible fight… And it’s not until they accidently fall into a flower-covered field that they realize their foolishness and learn to be friends.
An author’s note explains how he discovered the folktale and talks about the cultural inspirations for the beautiful background patterns used throughout the book. Tiger and Turtle conveys an important message and makes for a perfect read-aloud for the younger crowd.
Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Frampton
Riding the Tiger
Clarion Books, 2001
Set in the streets of a big city and illustrated with gorgeous woodcuts by David Frampton, Riding the Tiger is Eve Bunting’s powerful story about a ten year-old boy new to town who can’t resist the invitation of an alluring tiger to go for a ride. Cruising the city on the tiger’s back gives Danny a sense power, of being respected by children and adults alike—he no longer feels powerless and out of place. Soon, however, he realizes that what he thought was respect is actually fear, and that getting off the tiger’s back isn’t easy.
A wonderful metaphor for the power of gangs, drugs (or whatever harmful attraction children may find hard to resist at one point or another in their lives), this beautifully told story offers much food for thought. It should be a must-read in schools everywhere, where children may be feeling tempted to give up their freedom and inner strength in the name of acceptance and (pseudo) respect.
Lynne Reid Banks,
Laurel Leaf, 2007
Two tiger brothers are taken from the jungle to Rome. One, Brute, is raised to kill slaves, criminals and Christians at the Colosseum; Boots, the other, becomes a pet to Emperor Julius Ceasar’s 12 year-old daughter, Aurelia.
While Boots is treated like royalty, Brute spends most of his time locked in a dark cage. When after a game gone wrong Julius, the slave who cares for Boots and harbor feelings for Aurelia, is sent to the arena to face the killer Brute, accused of letting Boots escape, things get very intense, and Aurelia must make difficult decisions whose consequences are beyond her years to fully grasp. The great mixture of adventure, romance and historical fiction in Tiger, Tiger will appeal to older kids and have them on the edge of their seats, rooting for a happy ending for Julius, Aurelia and Boots.
Helen Bannerman, illustrated by Valeria Petroni
The Boy and the Tigers
Golden Books, 2004
In this retelling of Helen Bannerman’s controversial Little Black Sambo, little Rajani ventures into the jungle and runs into several tigers who, one by one, convince him to give them his belongings: a new red coat, a pair of blue trousers, purple shoes, and even his green umbrella! But resourceful Rajani devises a way to outsmart the tigers and get his things back. The lovely new illustrations by Valeria Petroni combined with non-offensive names and non-stereotypical character depictions make this story a treasure again. (more…)