When this frustration is fed by imagination, it's hard to predict the outcome. What's even more fascinating is when the line between reality and illusion is blurred, or is it? Tiger In My Soup (Peachtree Publishers) written by Kashmira Sheth with illustrations by Jeffrey Ebbeler is imagination gone WILD.
Today, my big sister is in charge of the house, the lunch, and me.
What this brother wants, more than anything, is for his sister to read to him. She has other plans for her time. Looking at the pictures over and over, while interesting is not the same as sharing the experience with someone else. He asks her again.
She does not reply. When he yells that he is hungry, she definitely hears him. After heating up soup, as she is handing him the bowl, she warns him about it being hot. He views the steaming soup as another opportunity; he asks her to read to him as it cools. Does she read to him now?
Of course... she does not. What happens next proves that either the soup or the boy are extraordinary. One innocent stir and a tiger emerges from the liquid warmth; a full-blown, grown tiger.
In his dumbfounded fright, the boy drops his spoon and yelps, "Help!" Peeved the sister, surprisingly unaware of the tiger, hands him another. It's up to the lad to protect himself from this ferocious feline on his own. It's an out and out battle. But wait...could it be? Where did the tiger go?
Annoyed the sister looks up from her book wondering why her brother let his soup get cold. Despite his frantic pleadings, she places the bowl in the microwave. A scream, a sigh and a page read later, the boy is not sure about the book, soup or his sister any more.
Through the first person narrative and dialogue created by Kashmira Sheth we experience a fantastical adventure which springs forth from the simple desire to have a story read. It's the play between the two which generates the rhythm of the story, adding to the tension, action and surprise. Conversations between the brother and sister are so typical you can't help but smile. When the boy is speaking to the reader about his taming of the tiger smiles will turn to laughter; word choices are wonderfully chosen. I really enjoyed this sequence of sentences.
I look at the pictures by myself...
downside up and upside down,
front to back and back to front,
with my eyes open and
with my eyes closed.
When opening up the jacket and cover readers know this book is going to be a tad bit different and more than a little bit funny. It's hard to miss the lifelike tiger crouched on the table with a colander-clad boy, chair and belt in hand, trying to keep it at bay. On the back cover the boy is lying on his back reading his book, feet propped in a Adirondack chair with a seagull lying on his back, feet stuck straight in the air, next to him, also reading the book. (As long as the boy is outside the seagull is his constant companion plus he peeks inside during the story, eyes popping at the sight of the tiger.)
Pictured, using a heavier matte finished paper, on the front and back endpapers are cans of alphabet soup in rows with the frightened boy in various poses of escape, hungry tiger in pursuit. Both sets of title pages, verso and dedication pages feature tiger skin, a tiger tail swishing in a steaming bowl of soup, and the beautiful stylized illustrations from the boy's book; a story from India. Readers will fall in love with family's home looking like a tree house perched atop a rock island, rows of twisting stairs needed to get to the front door.
Jeffrey Ebbeler rendered these illustrations with acrylics on archival 100% rag watercolor paper using a color palette combining hues that reflect the seaside setting with the warmer colors associated with the tiger and the boy's book. The effect is captivating. Lots of movement, facial expressions and switching perspective contribute to the reader not knowing what is going to happen next but being more than willing to turn the page to see. His details, the grinning kitchen clock, pasta spelling words, the patterned fabric on the placemat, and the chair and table legs shaped like paws, add to the overall appeal.
Get ready to be entertained when reading Tiger In My Soup by Kashmira Sheth with illustrations by Jeffrey Ebbeler. The brother and sister dynamics, the suspense, the action, the humor and the energetic pictures will have readers saying "read it again" as soon as the cover closes. This title is on its way to my 2014 Mock Caldecott Learnist board.
Please follow the embedded links in their names above to the official author and illustrator websites. As soon as I read this post at Jama's Alphabet Soup I knew I could hardly wait to see this book. When I read these two posts by Julie Danielson at Kirkus and Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (with lots of illustrations) I knew I had to own a copy for myself.