A Walk on the Wild Side: Mr.Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
EVERYONE WAS PERFECTLY FINE WITH THE WAY THINGS WERE.
EVERYONE BUT MR. TIGER.
MR. TIGER WAS BORED WITH ALWAYS BEING SO PROPER.
Mr. Tiger lives in a clearly upright and uptight world. The cookie-cutter row houses are tall and narrow, uniformly grey and brown to match the inhabitants, who are dressed decorously in Victorian style, with small bustles for the ladies and long, tight-fitting frock coats for the gentlemen. Mr. Tiger himself is totally fitted out in impeccable haberdashery, from his tall top hat to his high-collar and tiny butterfly bow tie, with stiff-upper lip etiquette to match.
But when a few young ones make the slightest attempt at a romp, a passing horse, strolling sedately on her hind legs, lowers her lorgnette to admonish them earnestly:
"NOW CHILDREN, PLEASE DO NOT ACT LIKE WILD ANIMALS!"
But unlike his bland fellow pedestrians, Tiger's bright orange fur stands out in the crowd, and when he hears the lady warning the youngsters, he suddenly feels the same urge to break out of the mold. He drops down on all fours and has an immediate epiphany. A small change in altitude brings a great change in attitude. Four legs are better than two! Tiger sheds his togs, leaps upon a rooftop, and lets out a full-throated ROAR! and takes off for the woodsy wilds where his inner beast leaps and lopes freely.
In his latest, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (Little, Brown, 2013), Caldecott artist Peter Brown uses the picture book page, itself a metaphor for self-expression in a controlled environment, to emphasize his hero's urge to think outside the box, as the transformed Tiger strips to his stripes and and bounds, au naturel, off page right, for his walk on the wild side, where stylized rampant greenery surrounds him.
Brown's work as an illustrator, with its careful draftsmanship set off with judicious use of orange, is perfect for this tale, in which Tiger finds the life of the solitary hunter lacks only one thing--a social network, and it seems that when Tiger returns to town in his flowery jacket, everyone else has decided to loosen their cravats and occasionally go quadrupedal themselves. Brown knows how to use the page turn as a delightfully dramatic device, and his juxtaposition of the dull-toned vertical world of the town with the glowing colors and flowing curves of the lateral landscape of the wilderness provides just the right contrast. Despite its stylistic sophistication and sly sociological premise, kids will giggle at Tiger's transformation and easily get the essence of this story, frequently compared by reviewers to Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are.
Peter Brown's other notable works include The Curious Garden, YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! (Starring Lucille Beatrice Bear), and his Caldecott-winning illustrations for Creepy Carrots!