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by Eve Bunting & illustrated by David Frampton

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: March 19th, 2001
ISBN: 0-395-79731-4
Publisher: Clarion

After a long string of career hits from Bunting (The Wall, 1990, Smoky Night, 1994, etc.), we have a miss: a bald, ham-handed allegory cautioning kids against gang membership and peer conformity. Danny, a ten-year-old, new-kid-on-the-block, is immediately greeted by a savvy tiger that invites him to come along for a ride. In a series of exchanges over multiple pages, they prowl the mean streets of an urban neighborhood. As the ride proceeds, the fun fades and it becomes clear that shopkeepers, cops, girls gathered on a street corner, and even a group shooting baskets are firmly under this tiger's paw. Ominously, gang colors and “tags” (here depicted as the tiger's black paw-print) are everywhere. Happily, the scales fall from Danny's eyes by the short ride's end. When Danny dismounts to help a terrified "bum, rooting through garbage," the tiger turns and snarls his threat: "You've had your chance. You'll never be one of us . . .” The message is pounded home: "Once you get up on the tiger's back, it's hard to get off. . . . But if you get off fast enough it's still possible." Frampton's handsome woodcuts capture the sinister slink of the tiger and the potent mix of attraction and danger he projects. Those who work in therapeutic settings with at-risk kids may want to add it to their treatment arsenal. However, libraries—especially urban libraries—may find this a far too simple answer to a complex question. Most general readers—kids and their parents, grandparents, and older siblings—will find this simplistic and preachy. (Picture book. 6-9)