Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tiger on a Tree : Pulak Biswas and Anushka Ravishankar

Tiger on a Tree is one of the pathbreakers in Indian children's literature.

Pulak Biswas is one of India's leading children's book illustrators, whose work with Shankar and the Children's book trust had already won a number of awards. In the mid-90's, he conceived and illustrated this story, but the text
sparkled after it was converted into whimsical rhyme by Anushka Ravishankar.

The tiger encounters an angry goat who terrifies him into running up a tree. The villagers (presumably sun-darkened fishermen from the Sunderbans) are amazed:
Tiger on a tree?
Rubbish - cannot be.
It's true I saw it too!
Now what to do?

The illustrations are whimsical, the rhytms of the poetry
accentuated by the rhythmically jumping text.

Eventually, the fishermen lay a net around the tree and beat drums and blow horns until the tiger runs into the trap. But then, the villagers don't know what to do with a live tiger on their hands:
Send him to the zoo?
Stick him up with glue?
Paint him an electric blue?

The text leaps across pages like the tiger, or splashes over like water.

It was an international critical success, and was selected for the UNESCO-sponsored Biennale of Illustrations Bratislava, a prestigious international contest for illustrations from a children's book. It was also an American Library Association (ALA) notable book in 2005. The book has been translated into 14 languages including French, German, Japanese, Italian, and Korean.

Note: the Tara publishing website says it won the "Andersen award" in 2004, presumably the Hans Christian Andersen award. But that award website does not list this book among its winners.

In the end, of course, the villagers let him go, and the tiger gets lost in the jungle. Unfortunately, this book seems to have gotten lost as well, for it isn't well known at all in India. - reviewed nov 2008

Other reviews

from review in The Hindu:

Tara Publishing has used innovative and unconventional illustrations and text to tell children the story of a tiger. Pulak Biswas' black and orange illustrations are set off in the beautiful handmade paper. But, says Ravishankar, she did not sit down to write the story about the tiger. Biswas had already done the illustrations at a workshop conducted by Tara earlier, and she worked on the text much later. She says she enjoys writing this way because it creates a kind of tension between the writing and the illustration. It also gives the opportunity to work with minimal text for maximum effect. ...

[The book became quite popular in French schools], where one resource person stopped the story when the tiger had been caught and the text read: "What shall we do now?" The children were asked to illustrate the options. Ravishankar says she was surprised with the kind of illustrations the kids had come up with. While one of them had drawn a tiger rug, another had drawn a neatly arranged table with plate and fork and knife. And on the plate lay an orange and black striped skin.

A nonsense import from India tells the story of an endearingly timid tiger. Minimalist verse follows the little fellow as he intrepidly crosses a stream and then encounters a terrifying goat: "Baaaaaaaa," says the goat, and "Yaaaaaaaah!" shrieks the tiger, who flees up a tree. A group of dhoti-clad men trap the tiger, debate what to do with him—"Send him to the zoo? Stick him up with glue? Paint him an electric blue?"—and, of course, eventually set him free. Thick, creamy stock supports the equally minimalist two-color illustrations (black and orange, natch), which depict a blobby little tiger with wide, distressed eyes and men of a variety of ages and body types (pot-bellies are prominent). The typography swoops and darts across the page, lending extra energy to the illustrations. The tale ends as it begins, with the "Tiger, tiger on the shore," happily returning home. Ravishankar is well-known in India for her Indian English nonsense verse and Biswas is one of the country's premier children's book illustrators; cheers to the publisher for bringing them to these shores. (Picture book. 3-6) - Kirkus

This review is based on the one at book excerptise.

You can also read excerpts from Ravishankar and Biswas' Catch that Crocodile (also from Tara Publishing) on google books.