Wild Thing

h1 September 10th, 2013 by jules

Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator Peter Brown has a new picture book (Little, Brown, September 2013). It’s called Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, and it’s one of my favorite picture books this year. If you want to know why, by chance, I wrote a review of the book here for BookPage.

Peter visits below to share some early images and to talk a bit about the book. I’ll close with some final spreads from the book.


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Peter: I had the idea of a proper tiger going wild long before I began imagining what that story would actually look like. I found myself on the Big Island of Hawaii for a week, with some time to kill, and the lush, jungle scenery inspired me to begin working on Mr. Tiger. This is the first drawing I ever did of him:

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At first I thought my tiger character needed a fancy old name. I considered really proper names, like “Commodore Tiger” and “Professor Tiger,” but those names and titles would raise too many questions. As I went about simplifying the design of the art, I also simplified my writing and word choices and eventually landed on the simple, respectable name of Mr. Tiger.

It was clear, early on, that the city would represent the etiquette and rules and monotony that come with civilized living, while the wilderness would represent freedom and excitement and the wildness that still lurked within the animal characters. I sketched this scene to show the relationship between those two forces, but this wasn’t quite working for me and so this scene didn’t make into the finished book.

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I really wanted Mr Tiger to be a sympathetic character, struggling to discover his true self, and I imagined many scenes of him thinking quietly.

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I preferred this scene of Mr. Tiger thinking quietly, because it hints at why he’s feeling bored with his current life and doesn’t reveal what his solution might be. I used this as a final sketch for one spread, but changed his expression to make him look a bit more sad and confused.

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I’d been wanting to experiment with watercolor, and Mr. Tiger seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that. This is the first art test I did, using watercolor, India ink, paint splatter, pencil, and digital:

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You can see how that first art test inspired the final book cover and jacket:

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“Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were.
Everyone but Mr. Tiger.”

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“Mr. Tiger became wilder and wilder each day.”
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“So Mr. Tiger ran away…”
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MR. TIGER GOES WILD. Copyright © 2013 by Peter Brown. Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, New York. All images here used with permission of Peter Brown.

2 comments to “Wild Thing”

  1. This is such a well-crafted, beautiful book! So great to see some of the earlier drawings/paintings and get a glimpse of the process of making it. The one with the gray, hard-lined city buildings in front of the distant vegetation (that didn’t make it in) is cool in that the buildings are a barrier to the reader getting to that wild place, too. But I like the side-by-side contrast of the last one even better. Love the waterfalls…

  2. Just read this yesterday! I love seeing the process here. And LOVED the palette in this book.

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