Two picture books published in the last couple of months are all about conforming versus being oneself, and both, in very different ways, use being “wild” as a vehicle to express this. But they both approach the subjects from opposite sides which makes them particularly interesting together.
Wild is the story of a little girl, who, very much à la Mowgli in The Jungle Book, has been brought up in the forest by and amongst wild animals. The birds taught her to talk, the bears taught her to eat, and the foxes taught her how to play and amongst her furry and feathery friends, she is happy, and free. But when she is discovered by humans, she is taken back in to the “civilized” world where a psychiatrist undertakes the task to tame her and make her conform to the expectations of society, with disastrous consequences, until the little girl finally has enough and escapes back to the comfort of her forest home.
With little text, most of this tale is told through the artwork, which is incredibly unique and might need a little getting used to. However one cannot deny how powerful the artwork is at depicting the beauty of the wilderness both in Nature and in the little girl. Each spread is brimful of incredible detail. The artwork oozes feeling, whether it is delirious happiness at being free, or extreme anger at being caged in. Such expressive artwork will enable the youngest of readers to comprehend what is at stake here: that people cannot be changed or tamed to conform to what others might expect of them. The heroine is unashamedly wild and the final sentence “because you cannot tame something so happily wild” sums this unusual picture book wonderfully.
Once again Flying Eye Books’ outstanding overall book design and commitment to producing beautiful books is obvious. They don’t just create picture books, they create little pieces of art.
Mr Tiger lives in a world where everything is in order, everyone is being very proper, but things are a little bit grey. Mr Tiger is fed up with having to act so perfectly all the time and longs to be able to loosen up and have a little fun. Then one day, he decides that enough is enough and that he needs to get a little wilder, much to his friends’ dismay and disgust. Free from all inhibitions, Mr Tiger runs away from the stuffy world in the wilderness, to have some fun.
I have to say I feel in love with Mr Tiger Goes Wild instantly. Apart from being a vibrant, wonderful celebration of individuality, it is absolutely stunning visually. Not only is the artwork sleek, but it is incredibly effective at conveying the message of the story. Peter Brown cleverly sets his tale in a world which is similar to the Industrial Revolution and Victorian times, an era renown for being strict, grey and a little uptight. The monochrome drawings depicting the world Mr Tiger lives in helps emphasise the colour that comes only from him and his desire to break free, while also conveying the increasing separation between him and his folk. The use of the Victorian era is also interesting because it was long seen as an optimum time for mankind, where Man had outdone himself; this makes a particularly interesting contrast with Mr Tiger who literally goes backwards as far as evolution is concerned, back to whis “natural” state. So there is plenty to talk and think about in this tale, but for younger readers, Mr Tiger Goes Wild will be all about being able to be oneself and express our feelings, so we can be happy. This might resonate quite nicely with little people who are starting school and are finding that there are quite a lot of rules to adhere to all of a sudden. But being free of all constraints isn’t always without challenges: despite being misunderstood by his friends, Mr Tiger misses them and he eventually goes back to his hometown, only to find that his behaviour has changed others’ outlook and everyone is allowing themselves a little wilderness too. Mr Tiger Goes Wild offers a great message about how a little bit of individuality can be good for every one.
A really a stunning and picture book, one of my favourite picture books of 2013!
Source: review copies from publisher