cover image Riding the Tiger

Riding the Tiger

Eve Bunting. Clarion Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-79731-0

Bunting's provocative allegory uses a tiger to personify the powerful allure of the gang. When the tiger calls Danny by name and invites him for a ride through their tough city neighborhood, the boy accepts, but soon learns that he has made a dangerous mistake. The tiger talks about respect, but wins it through taunts and intimidation. When Danny tries to get off the tiger's back, the tiger threatens him. ""But maybe I don't want you to get off,"" the tiger says. ""Maybe I want to get to know you better."" Only when the tiger traumatizes a homeless man can the boy conquer his own fear to aid the tiger's victim. Bunting's 1997 picture book, Your Move, highlighted the same dilemma; in it, the boy's loving family and supportive neighbors are set against the menace of the gang. Here the story recedes in importance as the author trumpets the moral dilemma (""Do you want what I want?"" asks the tiger, ""Because anyone who isn't for us is against us""). Danny's family and friends never appear onstage, and the conflict is played out entirely in Danny's mind. Frampton's stark, stylized woodcuts, medieval in their conception and intensity, heighten the story's morality-play atmosphere. Like Your Move, the book will be most useful as a discussion-starter. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)