Panthera Tigris

Eerdmans. Oct. 2019. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802855299.
K-Gr 3–The opening of this French import depicts a cross-section of a scholar’s brain complete with identifying labels, e.g., the “speed reading zone” and “button for reciting.” The latter area is activated frequently as the story progresses, but initially, readers observe the bespectacled, bearded older man researching the one topic that had escaped his notice: Bengal tigers. A jungle expedition follows. Scientific diagrams on the verso display information: necessary equipment, the “big cats” in the genus “Panthera,” images of a retractable claw, and other hints of impending danger. Rajcak renders these with black, inked precision, while the controlled palette of the foray into the wild adds greens, browns, and oranges to the recto drawings. Cross-hatching provides density. Throughout the journey, the unschooled but experienced Indian hunter tries to warn the gentleman about tiger behavior, but he is constantly interrupted: “…did you know that the pads on a tiger’s paws are made of an elastic membrane, allowing this noble beast to move around in complete silence?” Listeners will note the quiet entrance of stripes before the scholar does. Alzial leaves the climactic encounter’s ending ambiguous, allowing the audience to decide the protagonist’s fate and ponder what it means to be educated. A brief note explains that the story was inspired by the 20th-century Indian guru Swami Prajnanpad. The author successfully marries the structure and cadences of a cautionary tale with information-rich monologues that introduce interesting concepts.
VERDICT This title will appeal to natural history buffs and anyone who thrives on chasing clues and rising suspense.

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