Sometimes, a Tiger

Feiwel & Friends. Jul. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250823441.
K-Gr 3–If George Bailey, facing ruin in It’s A Wonderful Life, wrestled the illustrations away from Anthony Browne (Ernest the Elephant, Gorilla), the result would be Asterplume’s optimistic debut about food insecurity. Readers see Dario’s bed, a bare mattress on the floor. His toothbrush is in a bucket, and his lamp has no shade. It’s a gray day, there is little food, but when this pale-skinned boy with slicked-over brown hair finds a tiger in the pantry, the day brightens. Working in a style that resembles Hilary Knight’s in Betty MacDonald’s “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” books, Asterplume has a perfect grasp of the give-and-take between pictures and text. Readers will be as perplexed and wondrous as the diverse group of children and adults within the book, including the token crotchety neighbor, as animals of all stripe fill the classroom, shops, and surroundings in a day full of surprises. What is real and what is imaginary? That Dario needs to eat is never taken for granted, and there is a groundswell of attention for his situation that may be idealized, but feels like a good start. The tiger, though realistically depicted, is more Tony the Tiger than William Blake, but the metaphor works. Wonder is not available to everyone, but Dario shares his.
VERDICT A powerful imagination is no substitute for a good meal, but this book drops a broad hint that good spirits and a caring community can be rallied to the cause.

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