August 2003

A new look for a children’s classic

By Charlotte Zolotow
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A Tiger Called Thomas is a sweet story that climaxes on Halloween night, but it's much more than a holiday tale. First published in 1963 and re-illustrated here by Diana Cain Bluthenthal, this children's classic focuses on the heart how a boy named Thomas worries about making friends, and how a tiger costume helps him learn that he is, indeed, liked and known by all in his new neighborhood.

Young Thomas has moved into a new community, where he sees many interesting people, but he simply sits on his stoop, too shy to venture out, because he's afraid he won't be liked. He won't play with young Marie, or say hi to the lady with the black cat, and he's afraid to reach out to a lonely boy named Gerald.

Thomas sits and watches: "He watched the sparrows and the grackles and the blue jays in the trees. He watched the black cat look up at the sparrows and the grackles and blue jays. But he never went off the stoop to play." With lines like these, Charlotte Zolotow a legendary author as well as children's literature editor and publisher advances her story while showing what good writing is all about, even at the preschool level, even when nothing much is going on.

Everything changes for Thomas the night he puts on a tiger costume and goes trick-or-treating, no longer afraid of rejection because of his disguise. He is surprised that everywhere he goes, the neighbors seem to know him already. "That's funny," he says to himself. "She called the tiger Thomas." This goes on at every stop, until Thomas comes home. The story ends with a revelation for our hero: ”I guess they all like you,' his mother said. Thomas looked at her. Suddenly he felt wonderful." Diana Cain Bluthenthal has produced timeless drawings with a modern-day feel. Thomas himself is reminiscent of the lovely young boy in Ezra Jack Keats' classic, The Snowy Day. Bluthenthal brings interest to her simple illustrations by adding wonderful collage-like texture to the pictures. When is a Halloween story not a Halloween story? When it's by Charlotte Zolotow and the emotions and discoveries transcend the holiday. The tale of Thomas is treat enough for any reader.

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A Tiger Called Thomas

A Tiger Called Thomas

By Charlotte Zolotow
ISBN 9780786805174

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