cover image Tiptoe Tapirs

Tiptoe Tapirs

Hanmin Kim, trans. from the Korean by Sera Lee. Holiday House, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3395-7

Distinctively stylized paintings distinguish this cautionary tale from South Korean author-illustrator Kim. Set “long ago in a jungle where many animals lived,” the story introduces Tapir and Little Tapir, who are quiet and cautious by nature (“Tiptoe, tiptoe. They were careful not to step on an ant”). This alone isn’t enough to keep them safe, however. In a frightening sequence, an orange leopard with needlelike teeth and hooked claws tears through the jungle after them. Just as suddenly, a new danger reveals itself: “Bang! Bang! Bang!” blasts a hunter’s shotgun as three round bursts explode just over the animals’ heads. Following the tapirs’ tiptoeing example allows the leopard and his intended prey to survive. Intriguing details await careful readers (is that Kim himself tiptoeing behind his tapir heroes on the inside front cover?), and the inky silhouetted vegetation and animals’ vacant, ghostlike eyes both help establish a sense of the jungle as a mysterious, unpredictable place. But while readers are left with the assurance that the hunter “left the jungle, never to return,” the violent encounter casts a lingering pall. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)