To say the characters in Peter Brown’s new picture book are anthropomorphized is putting it mildly. They’re in clothing, walking upright and living in houses, but they take it even further: They are creatures who have altogether forgotten that they’re animals who can exercise their savageness. These refined, Victorian-esque creatures have abandoned their wild natures. Wanting to have some fun, Mr. Tiger gets to the ground, discovers his additional two legs, sheds his clothes and heads to the wild. Though he enjoys it, he misses his friends and eventually returns, only to discover things are different back home.
Brown reduces scenes to their essentials in these compositions, the digitally-colored artwork initially rendered via India ink, watercolor, gouache and pencil. He effectively establishes mood with his color choices, heightening the book’s story arc and emotional impact. On the opening spread, drab light browns and grays dominate, as we see the dignified creatures (even the monkey) walking stiff and upright down the road, yet Mr. Tiger stands out with his bright orange fur. The spreads get progressively brighter—more greens, more blues, and more light—as he heads to the wilderness.
Brown and his design team have made all kinds of smart choices in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, a book that celebrates mischief and has a real timelessness to it. For one, he even lets the typeface go wild: When Mr. Tiger is fully free in the wilderness, having discovered his inner beast, we see hand-lettered display type in a huge speech bubble: “ROAR!” Brown also knows where to vary size and use white space to make us care about his main character. The moment Mr. Tiger decides to walk on all four legs, as well as the one where he sheds all his tight clothing and heads to the wilderness, are exuberant occasions when an up-close Mr. Tiger is given the entire spread. The endpapers are also worth discovering: The opening pages display a brick wall, and the final ones show readers a field of grasses.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is an exceptional tribute to the wild and rambunctious energy in all children.
Wild thing, I think I love you.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.