Buttoned-up collars; small talk about the weather; raised pinky fingers at teatime; Mr Tiger has had enough. “He wanted to loosen up. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to be…wild”. Cue raised eyebrows and outrage from those around him keen on keeping up decorum and maintaining the status quo (note: not everyone feels this way; he provokes thought in some, “Hmm,” he gets a “Wow” from another, and a brilliant bit of detail from Peter Brown has the city’s pigeons riveted by his behaviour). But, Mr Tiger has had a “wild idea” and once he gets started there is no turning back — the game has changed — for him and (somewhat reluctantly) the society in which he lives.
After ruffling quite a few feathers, Mr Tiger finally goes a step too far. Not only does he decide to walk on all fours (!), but he also sheds his clothes (collective gasp). He is given an ultimatum: toe the line or return to the wilderness. So, off he goes.
He has a whale of a time roaring, climbing and splashing about, until he realises, this new way of life isn’t quite right either. He is lonely and he misses home. Back to the city and civilised life he heads. He is met halfway (literally and figuratively) by two of his harshest critics, who offer him an olive branch in the form of a Hawaiian print shirt. Things have shifted — for everyone.
When he returns to the city there is a new-found balance between the dichotomy of desires (for order vs. going completely wild) in the animals of this book. I can’t help but see a message here for the toddlers in my life (potty training my oldest and a new found need in my youngest to dance on top of the coffee table has certainly helped drive the point home). There exists in all of us a drive to break free and go wild with disregard for those around us, but when we seek balance and compromise (and, for example, opt not to pee on the floor) everyone stands to benefit.
Oh, how I love Peter Brown’s treatment of the animals in this book. Their facial expressions alone (particularly those of Mr Tiger before he goes wild) are completely perfect. He is also spot on with his pacing. He uses big, bold, wordless, two-page spreads to slow things down and mark major moments in Mr Tiger’s evolution. There is a particular spread which features Mr Tiger, on his own, walking through a field in the wilderness, which bridges the gap between the two halves of the story, and allows us to believe Mr Tiger’s journey from beast back to (semi-)civilisation. The illustrations are a wonderful mix of India ink, Watercolour, gouache and pencil on paper. Each page is a wonder to explore; the detail poured into the animals’ demeanour is a perfect conduit for getting little ones to focus on and discuss how various characters are feeling.