In her picture book debut, adult author Susan Choi (Trust Exercise) teams up with Caldecott Honor recipient John Rocco (Blackout; Noah Builds an Ark) to create a moving story about a young boy finding his independent spirit.
Choi's main character, a dark-haired little boy in a bucket hat and too-big hiking boots, hopes his family's summer camping trip will last forever. He feels apprehensive about starting first grade, and his mother pushes him to be more independent. Arriving at the campsite, the family finds a petite, well-mannered tiger who requests his own tent and becomes the boy's boon companion. The tiger shows the family a breathtaking overlook during a hike and dives in the lake while they fish from a rowboat, bubbles streaming from its fur. With the beast at his side, the boy gains the courage to stand on his own.
Choi's tender story lies at the intersection of Life of Pi and Calvin and Hobbes. Young children will take the talking tiger at face value, while older readers may see the animal as the boy's avatar. Rocco's watercolor, pencil and digital illustrations shine against white backgrounds, and the tiger roars to life in show-stopping spreads, its haunting eyes staring directly at the reader through flecks of campfire embers. An aerial view of the boy and the tiger floating in a rowboat on a lake reflecting a blue and violet Milky Way sky is especially awe-inspiring. Like the hero, children ages four to eight will likely take courage from the tiger long after the adventure ends. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library