”Just as roses have thorns as sharp as claws, tigers have sentiments as soft as flowers. This charming book will lull you into its fantasies in a most beguiling way.”
- Princess Grace of Monaco
Once upon a time, a tiger fell in love with a flower. The flower loved the tiger just as much, and did her best to tempt him back to her. But, the creatures of the forest made fun of them. They wondered what kind of love could a cat and a flower possibly have.
The birds talked about nests and eggs and hatchlings. Even the butterflies scoffed. They claimed that love meant two and two alike and anything else was simply foolishness. A cheetah, taking pity upon the tiger, lent him a boat in which to search the great and endless sea to find someone more suitable to love.
The tiger set sail and on his voyage encountered a jaguar. When the tiger asked what the jaguar was searching for, the jaguar responded that he was searching for his own true love. The tiger, having known and mourned true love, explained that he was searching for a new true love, because he could not love a flower.
The jaguar admonished the tiger for being foolish. He explained to the young the tiger that one day the tiger would be old and he would realize he had wasted his life looking for a love that he had already found and had the audacity to leave behind.
So, the tiger makes the journey back to his true love and encounters other animals – who all want to give their opinions on love and what it should look like, feel like, be like.
I spent countless hours scouring the interwebs for this book – a couple of times. Mainly, because I wanted to make sure that my nieces (both of whom are biracial) would have a children’s book that could help them understand how they came to be.
It is also a prime example of why I adore children’s books. It takes a very specific type of mind to create an allegory that speaks to children while still being entertaining to the adults reading them at bed time. Several years ago (before my first niece was born), I found a copy of the book with the hopes of simply keeping it for myself as the collector’s item that it was.
After my first niece was born, I decided to send it to her. I told myself that I could find another copy and that it was important that my niece have it. When, my second niece was born (this time from my youngest sister), I looked for 2 new copies. I wanted her to have a copy of the book, but I also wanted one for myself.
Funnily enough, I am pretty sure I made the classic “aunt” mistake. I sent my nieces each a copy of a pristine (collector’s) book. I did so without realizing that children don’t think in terms of what should be kept pristine (and why should they?). The copy I kept for myself had an inscription written on the very first page from “Mommy” in 1981. But, I still cherish it.
Considering how young my nieces were when I sent the books to them, I shudder to think what condition the books are in now – or if they even still have them. But, they know the story. And, I think that is the whole point.
The illustrations of Fleur Cowles, are amazingly vibrant, despite the dated era of their style. And the story, a story about love regardless of what others think, is one that will always ring true.