Tiger in My Soup is a picture book about a boy who is left home in the care of his older sister. He tries again and again to get his sister to read to him, but she is immersed in her own book. Finally, over lunch, he conjures up a tiger rising from the steam of his soup. Eventually, his imaginary adventures break through his sister's self-absorption, and she reads him his book (about tigers, of course).
I think that this book might be a little confusing for younger kids. The narration and pictures both convey the tiger in the soup and related actions as if they were real, not imaginary. This makes for some rather stunning visuals, but younger readers may well wonder how the sister could avoid noticing the tiger battle just a few feet away. It's definitely a book that's going to require a bit of extra explanation.
But for those who can follow the subtleties of the plot, or who are young enough to just accept the story as-is, Tiger in My Soup offers a breathless narrative. Like this:
"I have to protect myself. I stab at him with my spoon. Some tiger spit lands on my face.
This means war!"
The acrylic illustrations in Tiger in My Soup are gorgeous. The siblings' house is on a rocky island, up a huge, twisty flight of wooden stairs, Ebbeler uses different perspectives (like looking up, and then down the stairs) to maintain visual interest. When the boy is fighting with the tiger, he puts a metal colander on his head, and brandishes a sword and belt. Angles and points of view shift with the battle. The characters (boy, sister, and tiger) are all rendered with an ever so slightly exaggerated realism. The boy is priceless, with his round glasses, spiky hair, and range of expressions. The tiger practically leaps from the page.
And oh yes, the siblings are African American. This doesn't affect the storyline in any way that I can see, but it's nice to have a picture book that matter-of-factly incorporates non-white characters.
Of course the thing that I personally love most about this book is that the entire storyline keys off of the love of books. The boy wants his sister to read his book to him. He tries to look at the pictures on his own, but it's just not the same. The reason that the sister won't read to him is that she's lost in a book herself. Delightful.
Tiger in My Soup, with its seamless mix of reality and imagination, may not work for the very youngest of readers. But for early elementary school kids, especially anyone fascinated by books and/or tigers, Tiger in My Soup is a fun visual treat. The fact that it adds a bit of diversity to the picture book section is a nice bonus. Recommended for home or early elementary school use.
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (@PeachtreePub)
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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