FICTION

Tiger Boy

illus. by Jamie Hogan. 144p. ebook available. Charlesbridge. Apr. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781580896603. LC 2013049028.
COPY ISBN
RedReviewStarGr 3–6—Set in the lush Sundarbans natural region of Bengal, this quiet, gripping tale emphasizes the deep but often fragile connection that exists between humans and nature. Passing exams will earn young Neel a much-coveted scholarship for a private boarding school in Kolkata, and the boy's family has their dreams pinned on him, feeling that a good education will ensure him a better quality of life. But Neel is too attached to the "golpata branches swaying in the monsoon rains…the evening smell of jasmine flowers…mingling with green chilies and fresh ilish fish simmering in mustard-seed oil" to ever consider leaving his home. He studies only halfheartedly for his tests, incurring the wrath of his serious headmaster. When a female tiger cub escapes from a neighboring animal reserve, Neel is determined to find her before she's snagged by greedy poachers led by Mr. Gupta, a corrupt local businessman. Gupta employs several of the villagers, including Neel's father, tempting them with additional income if they assist in the illegal effort. Informed by real-life situations in the region, Perkins avoids black-and-white characterizations and compassionately illustrates how dire circumstances affect a person's choices. Young readers will revel in the vivid action and suspense surrounding Neel and his sister Rupa's quest to locate the tiger cub. Adults will likely praise the novel's simple and clear narrative, which belies its complexity around issues related to climate change, poor economic conditions, class structure, and gender discrimination.
VERDICT Sure to encourage vital conversations among children, this is a fine addition to libraries and classrooms seeking to diversify collections.

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