Neel and his family live in the Sunderban islands of India, among the mangroves and the sundari trees. Neel’s Headmaster has selected him to compete for a scholarship to a school in the city of Kolcata. Neel can’t tell his proud parents that he has no interest in the scholarship, but he doesn’t want to leave his beloved island.
When a Bengal tiger cub escapes from the nearby reserve, the people of Neel’s village worry that the cub will die without her mother. But one man – a wealthy newcomer to the island – is hunting the cub to sell her on the blackmarket. Neel and his sister Rupa defy their parents and bravely go on nighttime searches for the cub. If they can find her first, they can return her safely to the reserve where she belongs.
In the course of their searching, Neel develops a new regard for education – not the kind that takes one away from home, but the kind that one brings back. He realizes that an education would be the most powerful way for him to protect – and even improve – his precious islands.
This book would be a great choice for readers who enjoyed November’s Book Club selection Rickshaw Girl, also by Mitali Perkins. The writing here is beautiful, just as it is in Rickshaw Girl, and is complemented again with gorgeous pastel illustrations by Jamie Hogan. This book touches on many of the same themes as Rickshaw Girl does, such as loyalty to family, love of home, and bravery.
As a coming of age story, Tiger Boy might also appeal to older readers. Neel has to decide what his place and purpose in the world will be, a role that will be defined by his values and his connection with his home and his fellow people. The stakes are higher in this book, and readers will be drawn, as I was, into the exciting story of survival – the cub’s, the family’s, and the island’s.
After reading about the beautiful Sunderbans, readers who want to learn more and get involved in their protection can visit www.tigerboy.org. Author Mitali Perkins created this website as a place where readers can find more information, including a discussion guide and links to organizations that are working to protect both Bengal tigers and the Sunderbans.
Learn more about Mitali Perkins on her website www.mitaliperkins.com.
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