My first-grader loves scary books (well, maybe not actual scary books, but the idea of scary books) so books about ferocious animals--real or imagined--usually make it onto our must-read list. In 2012 we read about snakes, taco-loving dragons, creepy carrots, a fish-eating fish, and tigers. In fact, three books about tigers are new favorites at our house; each has a different tone and a distinctive personality--all are terrific.
Tankard uses brilliant oranges, reds, yellows, greens, and blue in his cartoon illustrations. The not-quite-scary, but not-quite-cute tiger is equally believable in both his roles. A combination of thin and thick linework creates layers that allow the central elements--outlined in bold, black lines--to seemingly float above the page and ensures the focus stays on the boy and the tiger.
Anticipation, brilliant pacing, and the magic of page turns makes this a great story to share, especially with younger children.
You can read more about making the art for It's a Tiger at Chronicle Books Blog.
Fleming uses rhythm, repetition, and rhyme masterfully. The rhythm in the text slows the story enough to keep it from being rushed as repeated lines let the reader linger over each animal's attempt to help. At the same time, rhythm gives the story a lively pace. See how well it works in this sample:
Mouse came along, but what could she do?I admit, it took me a couple of readings to get really comfortable with the rhythm, but once I did, I couldn't imagine how it had tripped me up. The repetition of "Oh, no!" as each animals falls, begs for interaction, the rhyme flows easily, and onomatopoeia adds to the fun. You'll find yourself playing with the words even after you shut the book. (As an added bonus, how many books do you have in your collection that have a monkey swinging from a kudzu vine? Now that's fun to say!)
Mouse came to help, but what could she do?
Mouse was so small, what could she do?
She tried reaching down,
and she fell in, too.
Pamela Zagarenski's illustrations contain an abundance of suns, wheels, stripes, crowns, and tigers. The subdued palette and the stylized art imbue the book with a dreamlike quality, fitting for a crowned little girl and her similarly adorned parents. (As an aside, I really want to be that mother. I need a crown.) Each page echoes the previous pages while moving the story forward. With plenty of detail to hold your attention, even on repeated reading, the pictures create a world where whales, a toy llama, and a rag doll are perfectly at home. Zagarenski even manages a nod to The Little Prince and William Blake's "The Tiger." The copyright page says, "The illustrations are mixed media paintings on wood, and computer illustrations." I say, "Wow!"