This conversation happened when I read Mr. Tiger Goes Wild aloud to two kindergartners:
Kindergartner 1: “He’s naked!”
Kindergartner 2: “But he’s a tiger!”
Kindergartners 1 & 2: [contemplative silence]
Yes, a character who normally wears clothing exits a city fountain sans clothing. So, by definition, he is naked. One can’t argue. At the same time, animals generally are naked, and tigers are animals. So is “He’s naked!” a statement of fact or an exclamation of shock?
To better understand this kindergarten conundrum, let’s step back to the beginning of the book. Mr. Tiger is a proper gentleman (top hat, bow tie, overcoat) in a city of proper ladies and gentlemen. But Mr. Tiger was bored with always being so proper. All of this “Good day” and “Lovely weather we are having” and “Indeed.” Boring.
Mr. Tiger wanted to loosen up, have fun, and be wild. So he did one of the wildest things this proper city had seen in some time. He walked on all four legs. This led to running and chasing and climbing and roaring. “And then Mr. Tiger went a little too far.”
He dove in the city fountain and exited au naturale. “Mr. Tiger!” shouted Ms. Elephant. “If you must act wild, kindly do so in the WILDERNESS!”
So he did.
Then this conversation happened with my two kindergartners:
Me: “What do you think is going to happen next?”
Kindergartner 1: “He’s alone.”
Kindergartner 2: “Yeah. He’s lonely.”
Me, turning the page and reading: “But Mr. Tiger was lonely.”
What should Mr. Tiger do? Don his top hat, bow tie, and overcoat and stroll two-legged back into that proper city? Or remain in the wilderness living the wild life? Could there be a middle ground?
After all, shouldn’t Mr. Tiger feel free to be himself? Shouldn’t we all?
I won’t give away Mr. Tiger’s decision or how the story turns out, but I will share that there are lessons to be learned in Peter Brown’s book. Be yourself. Respect others despite the differences. Don’t conform only to please others.
And maybe you should just stay out of the city fountain altogether.