Max is a Parisian zoo tiger with an unbridled passion for all things ballet. His self-esteem is knocked, though, when it transpires that the citizens of Paris would rather not be audience to an eight-foot-tall escaped tiger leaping and plié-ing his way across the city. What’s a tiger to do with all of his balletic vigour and enthusiasm if nobody will watch him dance?
The answer lies with a little girl ballerina called Celeste who’s been watching Max dance as others are scarpering. She calmly finds the appropriate ballet attire for him– a tiger-sized pink lacy tutu and a pair of ballet shoes – and encourages him to dance like nobody is watching, come what may.
The tiger’s vulnerability and shyness are portrayed with a skilful expressiveness and the tender friendship between Celeste and Max is heartwarming without veering towards the overly cutesy. You are genuinely rooting for this Big Cat to overcome his shyness and pirouette until his whiskers drop.
Fabi Santiago adeptly employs a pared back palette of pinks, greens and a deep turquoise, plus a tigery splash of yellow for Max, lending the work a wonderfully retro feel. Her screenprinting technique contributes to this retro effect and the expansive spreads where Max and Celeste debut their grand performance in the Opera House in Paris are a treat for the eyes.
French speech bubbles – “J’adore le Tigre”, “Fantastique” and “Encore!” make for amusing asides. Bravo, Santiago, for a superb début. A terrific author/illustrator who has a keen understanding of the picturebook format and whose writing skills are an excellent match for her illustration skills.