Monday, April 23, 2012

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

Like most kiddos his age, Sprout loves animals, the more exotic the better. He likes to roar like a lion, growl like a bear, hoot like an owl - and sometimes all three together. Lately he's been in a big tiger phase, so we've incorporated some tiger-themed reading into our regular routine. And I've even found myself noticing tigers in a whole new way, thanks to my sweet boy.

One of my resolves this year has been to read more nonfiction for kids. In setting out to dip into the true stories pool, I've been keeping my eyes open for buzzed-about titles, and one that keeps coming up is Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, with pictures by Vicky White. There's a reason this title is getting so much attention: it's simply gorgeous, not only with its photorealistic illustrations, but also in the way Jenkins communicates his point. With subtle gracefulness, Jenkins introduces the concept of endangerment, and in particular the plight of the tiger, "big, beautiful and fierce" as it is. He parallels the fate of other animals with that of the tiger, asking the question of whether we can take steps to change the course of events for this amazing animal. This is a book that will take your breath away, not only for its message but also for its stunning design. Though it's way above his comprehension, Sprout too is captivated by the pictures in this beautiful title. Truly incredible!

In Sam and the Tigers, Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney take ownership of one of the most controversial stories in American history, that of Little Black Sambo. Recognizing that this was a story many people felt strongly about, Lester and Pinkney decided to tell the story in a way that would support the racial identity of African American children. And what they've produced is a story that speaks to the original without relying on stereotype or negative portrayals. Sam is still the ingenious boy in the fancy clothes, who finds a way to put one over on the powerful tigers. In typical Lester and Pinkney fashion, the story is packed with humor and a quality of myth that brings Sam and his world to vivid life. This is a rendition that stacks up neatly with other classics like John Henry - as fantastic as it is compelling. And these are absolutely majestic tigers, in every sense, so real you feel they might spring off the page.

For a very different take, try Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen. This is one that even the youngest kiddos will enjoy hearing read aloud, as its bouncy rhythm is perfect for sharing. A tiny little fly is pestering some pretty big animals: an elephant, a hippo, and (of course) a tiger. But try as they might, none of these huge creatures can best the miniscule fly, who flies away at the end with a wink and a promise. Sprout adores this one, not only for its clever rhyme but also for its eye-popping illustrations by Kevin Waldron. If the cover image of the great big tiger herself doesn't draw your kiddos in, then the gatefold inside, with all the animals struggling to get at that tiny little fly is sure to do it. It's pretty telling that we've renewed this one at least once, and I'm sure that Sprout will have a hard time letting go when it's time to finally take it back to the library!

Want to add some power to your storytime? Try tigers - fierce and fantastic!

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