A young boy in a tiger costume holds a trick-or-treat bag as other children in costumes walk around a neighborhood behind him.

KidLit Book Review: A Tiger Called Tomás by Charlotte Zolotow and Marta Álvarez Miguéns


Synopsis

Tomás’s Mom encourages him to go out and meet the kids in his neighborhood, but Tomás is too shy. Instead, he sits on his stoop, watching the world go by. But on the night of Halloween, opportunity arrives in the form of a tiger costume, complete with a mask that hides his identity. He can go trick-or-treating without anyone knowing it’s him. But Tomás will soon discover his costume doesn’t hide him quite as well as he thinks…


Details

  • Title: A Tiger Called Tomás
  • Author: Charlotte Zolotow
  • Illustrator: Marta Álvarez Miguéns
  • Cover Artist: Marta Álvarez Miguéns
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
  • ISBN: 1492601713
  • Publication Date: August 7, 2018
  • For Ages: 3-6
  • Category: Picture Book
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.

I’d like to thank Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review

A sweet, empathetic story and warm, gentle illustrations make A Tiger Called Tomás a perfect book for kids who need help overcoming shyness or need help understanding the shy people around them. In this new edition of the 1963 book A Tiger Called Thomas, the reader meets Tomás, a young boy who moves to a new place and just sits and watches as his neighbors play and enjoy themselves. When his mother asks why he doesn’t join them, he responds that they probably won’t like him. It’s a familiar feeling for anyone with anxiety or self-esteem issues, and as the afterword notes, it takes on a special meaning in this bilingual edition: “making Tomás Latino would add yet another layer to his universal story: showing that his isolation felt as much about language as it was about skin color.”

When Tomás’s mother gets him a tiger costume and mask for Halloween, he’s able to go out and have fun for once because he thinks his disguise will shield him from the negative opinions he thinks other people have of him. It’s a heartbreaking sentiment, but it’s one that lots of kids and adults know all too well. At the story’s sincere and heartwarming conclusion, Tomás learns that his neighbors know him and like him much more than he thought they did. Charlotte Zolotow’s prose is sweet but never treacly; her writing is a remarkable combination of straightforward and kind-hearted, with lovely poetic flourishes that support the narrative without ever overwhelming it. Marta Álvarez Miguéns’s art is perfectly matched. Her use of light and color gives the characters an inner glow, subtly highlighting their warmth and kindness.

A bright orange moon shines over a neighborhood street as children in Halloween costumes go trick-or-treating. Tomás is dressed as a tiger and stands alone at the bottom right corner of the page.
Image: A bright orange moon shines over a neighborhood street as children in Halloween costumes go trick-or-treating. Tomás is dressed as a tiger and stands alone at the bottom right corner of the page.

I didn’t know when I first read the story how many times it had been reissued this is the fourth edition of the story but with such deft handling of a deeply relatable issue, I’m not at all surprised. According to the afterword, each new version sees the cast of characters get more and more inclusive, and with such a rich but simple story I can see future editions continuing to spread its supportive, hopeful message: you don’t have to put on a mask to face the world, because you are more seen and more loved than you realize.


Rating

This is a beautiful Halloween book. I give it 4.5 out of 5 coffins.

4.5 Coffins


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