Wordless Books


Nancy Tafuri

A young boy falls asleep after finishing his book Jungles of the World. Lying on his duvet is a cat who, unlike the child, isn’t sleepy at all. In fact it’s about to head out through an open window to explore the enticing night-time landscape.

Meanwhile in the boy’s dreams the cat transforms into an enormous tiger, and the garden outside his window a full-blown jungle. As he follows the ‘tiger’ into this jungle, the boy gets to see a variety of wild animals, from toucans and gibbons to hippopotami and elephants, until eventually the tiger leads him back home. The final image shows the child and his cat disappearing up a garden path together, the implication being that a game of make-believe jungles is about to start.

The illustrations, in watercolour, coloured pencils and black line, are bright and mostly realistic. Within each picture can be seen both the cat/tiger and the boy, with the latter often shown quite small, peeping out from behind some leaves to observe the animals – much as we are observing them in the pictures. The image in which the story switches from reality to dreamscape is particularly effective; the boy is represented as two children (one real, one a shadow), the cat’s tail gains some tigerish stripes and, creeping in through the window like the wisps of a dream, are long tendrils of jungle vines.

A pleasing feature of this book is that the animals shown in the illustrations are given their official names on the inside of the dust jacket, together with the countries where they live.

Nancy Tafuri has written numerous books for children and has won many awards. In 1985 her picturebook Have You Seen My Duckling? became a Caldecott Honor Book.