A learned scholar travels to the jungle to seek out his most recent subject of study.
An old white man who has devoted his life to learning is frustrated when he realizes that there is a gap in his knowledge. After months of intensive study, he sets out to get a glimpse of his subject—the Bengal tiger—in its native habitat. Guided by an Indian local, “a rather simple young man,” the scholar pontificates as the two travel through the jungle together, overwhelming the young man (and possibly readers as well). The guide attempts several times to interject but is steamrollered by the scholar’s verbosity. Face to face with the animal at last, the old man is distraught to discover that none of his knowledge has prepared him for the reality of a hostile predator. Alzial’s text, translated from the French, is long and dense, peppered with complex scientific vocabulary. Rajcak’s fine-lined, black-and-white drawings, splashed with oranges, browns, and greens, are similarly sophisticated. Intentionally old-fashioned in appearance, they include complicated diagrams and anatomical details alternating with scenes depicting the action. Both words and pictures have a slyly ironic tone, clearly poking fun at the scholar’s vanity. Unfortunately, the knowing contrast between the learned man’s ignorance and the local hunter’s knowledge is undercut somewhat when the latter acts “instinctively” to avoid the tiger.
This one-joke morality tale includes some engaging details but may nonetheless struggle to find an appreciative audience. (Picture book. 5-9)