Tiger Boy

Posted on Jun 4, 2016 in BR Library

9781580896603By Mitali Perkins
Illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Pages: 144
Lexile: 770L
Age Range: 7 – 10 Years

“One of the new tiger cubs has escaped from the reserve!”

When a tiger cub escapes from a nature reserve near Neel’s island village, the rangers and villagers hurry to find her before the cub’s anxious mother follows suit and endangers them all. Mr. Gupta, a rich newcomer to the island, is also searching—he wants to sell the cub’s body parts on the black market. Neel and his sister, Rupa, resolve to find the cub first and bring her back to the reserve where she belongs.

The hunt for the cub interrupts Neel’s preparations for an exam to win a prestigious scholarship at a boarding school far from home. Neel doesn’t mind—he dreads the exam and would rather stay on his beloved island in the Sunderbans of West Bengal with his family and friends.

But through his encounter with the cub, Neil learns that sometimes you have to take risks to preserve what you love. And sometimes you have to sacrifice the present for the chance to improve the future.


“Set amid the tidal mangrove forests of the Sunderbans of India and Bangladesh, Perkins’s story follows the efforts of a boy named Neel to track down a tiger cub that has escaped from a local reserve (the Sunderbans are a Unesco World Heritage site, Perkins notes in a glossary). To pay Neel’s mother’s medical bills, his Baba (father) works all hours for a man named Gupta, a newcomer to the area who has been buying up property and cutting down rare sundari trees. With Gupta offering a reward for the capture of the tiger cub (he plans to sell its skin on the black market), Neel and his sister, Rupa, make a plan to find the cub first. Perkins’s (Bamboo People) evocative descriptions, boosted by Hogan’s dramatic pastel drawings, convey an intense love and respect for the region’s culture and environment. Readers should find it easy to become invested in the cub’s return to the reserve and in Neel’s fight to help create the best future for himself, his family, and his home.”
Ages 7–10. Author’s agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Publishers Weekly

“Set in the lush Sundarbans natural region of Bengal, this quiet, gripping tale emphasizes the deep but often fragile connection that exists between humans and nature. Passing exams will earn young Neel a much-coveted scholarship for a private boarding school in Kolkata, and the boy’s family has their dreams pinned on him, feeling that a good education will ensure him a better quality of life. But Neel is too attached to the “golpata branches swaying in the monsoon rains…the evening smell of jasmine flowers…mingling with green chilies and fresh ilish fish simmering in mustard-seed oil” to ever consider leaving his home. He studies only halfheartedly for his tests, incurring the wrath of his serious headmaster. When a female tiger cub escapes from a neighboring animal reserve, Neel is determined to find her before she’s snagged by greedy poachers led by Mr. Gupta, a corrupt local businessman. Gupta employs several of the villagers, including Neel’s father, tempting them with additional income if they assist in the illegal effort. Informed by real-life situations in the region, Perkins avoids black-and-white characterizations and compassionately illustrates how dire circumstances affect a person’s choices. Young readers will revel in the vivid action and suspense surrounding Neel and his sister Rupa’s quest to locate the tiger cub. Adults will likely praise the novel’s simple and clear narrative, which belies its complexity around issues related to climate change, poor economic conditions, class structure, and gender discrimination. VERDICT Sure to encourage vital conversations among children, this is a fine addition to libraries and classrooms seeking to diversify collections.
—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA”
School Library Journal, starred review


• Notable Books for a Global Society
• NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction (Honorable Mention)
• CBC-NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
• A Junior Library Guild Selection
• CCBC Choices
• 2017 North Dakota Library Association Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award nominee, intermediate fiction
• 2016 South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature