Tapir’s courage and quiet steps show a leopard how to change his ways and avoid a human hunter.
This charming pourquoi tale is set in a Southeast Asian jungle where tapirs, rhinos, hornbills, apes, crocodiles, porcupines, and leopards coexist. Ably translated from the original Korean, the text is spare, gentle, and repetitive. “The leopard ran with loud, heavy steps. / THUD, THUD, THUD. / Tapir ran with soft, silent steps. / Hush, hush, hush.” In the art, created with watercolor, drawing ink, and marker pen, most animals have a distinctive color. Tapir is gray and white, while Little Tapir is a pleasing reddish brown. The jungle is more suggested than shown in these allusive images, reminiscent of Korean landscape paintings, and the figures and text both are set on an expanse of white. The placement of text and picture varies, sometimes together, sometimes opposed on a spread, but each spread is a self-contained idea until the climactic page turns of the leopard attack. The pacing is perfect. There is humor in the tiptoeing animals, the dancing rhinoceros and elephant, and Little Tapir’s dream of a birthday mud cake, but it is gentle, befitting the overall quiet tone of this appealing import.
Exquisite. (Picture book. 3-7)