Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Children’s books have reveled in themes like rebellion and wildness for a long time (Where the Wild Things Are was always a favorite of mine growing up), but few delve into the complex consequences of rebellion like Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.
A Story About Rebellion, Conformity, and the Area Between
Mr. Tiger lives in a strict and structured society that is—frankly—boring. Everyone walks the same, talks the same, and wears the same clothing. Soon Mr. Tiger is so bored that he decides to stop conforming and have fun. First he starts walking on all fours, then he begins roaring in public and jumping from rooftops. Unfortunately, his city cannot handle his new wild nature. Abandoning his clothes is the last straw and the citizens tell him to either quit acting ridiculous or leave.
So Mr. Tiger does leave. He escapes to the wild where he’s free to do whatever he pleases. Unfortunately, his fun doesn’t last forever and he begins to feel lonely. Luckily by the time he decides to head back to proper society, the society is less proper than he remembers. Everyone has the choice to walk, say, and wear whatever they want without the fear of being exiled. Finally, Mr. Tiger feels like he can be himself while still belonging to a community.
Rebellion Isn’t Always Good or Bad, Just Natural
We spend so much time telling kids what they can’t do. Even when their break from conformity is an accident (unlike Mr. Tiger’s), adults and peers often immediately stifle their “mistakes.”
Let’s face it: conformity is hard. Even the word will send grudges up the spine of fully grown adults. Children often have a difficult time keeping all the rules straight and it can be even more difficult to follow the rules once you know them. However, the theme of the story is not that rebellion wins over conformity or vice versa. Instead, Brown shows us that the healthy aftermath of rebellion is attaining both freedom and belonging. You should not have to choose between the two.
Reading this story demonstrates to children that it’s okay to try something new in order to improve the world you live in. As Dr. Maria Montessori explained, a child should be “set free from undue adult intervention [and] live its life according to the laws of its development.”
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is targeted primarily at older children who already recognize society’s rules. Preschoolers and kindergartners are prime readers for this book as they are more responsible for their actions than ever.