cover image The Tiger Who Would Be King

The Tiger Who Would Be King

James Thurber, illus. by JooHee Yoon. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59270-182-7

Most of Thurber's fables are lighthearted diversions, but this tale of a tiger that declares itself king of beasts finds the humorist at his darkest and driest. The forest animals, drawn into the tiger's revolt against the lion, fight without knowing why; when the dust clears, the tiger is indeed king of beasts%E2%80%94but only because all the other animals are dead. (Moral: "You can't very well be king of beasts if there aren't any.") As befits a tale of wholesale slaughter, Yoon's work is grim and haunting. Harnessing the energy of primitive folk art and using conflicting hues of red and green, Yoon (Beastly Verse) prints the creatures' big, blobby shapes right over one another, further heightening the sense of combat. A climactic gatefold captures two random moments in the chaos. On the outside, an elephant swipes at an approaching boar, and a stag rushes toward a rhinoceros. Opened up, the stag is entangled in the horns of a moose, and a zebra rears in rage. The illustrations constitute a wholly serious piece of artwork, one that may remind older readers of Picasso's Guernica. Ages 6%E2%80%939. (Sept.)