The Tiger Who Would Be King


Written by
James Thurber
Cartoonist and humorist who also wrote ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and was quoted to have said ‘well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?’.

Illustrated by
Joohee Yoon
Printer and illustrator from Massachusetts who provides visuals for The New York Times and Washington Post.
(not to be confused with Joo Ji Hoon the star of the middling South Korean movie ‘the Naked Kitchen’).

A parable towards the pointlessness of war. Tiger and Lion both look to claim their role as King of the jungle. Animals take sides and fight it out. The war leaves a victor and a blunt moral: ‘you can’t very well be the king of the beasts if there aren’t any’.

What makes it shelf-worthy?

The Tiger Who Would Be King uses selective, declarative statements to guide young readers through its simple narrative yet consistently resonates with big ideas and issues of real importance. This book provides a starting point for thinking about the morality of war, and questioning if the ends justify the violent means.

It’s refreshing to read a children’s book that uses allegory without getting itself tangled. You can read the story at its most basic form; about a Tiger and a Lion,or as a simple message on violence (ie – it’s usually not worth it), or as a Nietzsche-esque discussion on constructive/destructive rebellion.

Joohee Yoon’s illustration also is beautiful. The story itself has been around since 1927, but Yoon’s photolithography graphics have lifted it to another level, and thus it finds itself here in our collection of greats. Yoon’s style combines a classic feel with punchy modern graphic which works well alongside the simple yet powerful message. Saying that, even without the words the vibrant tri-coloured art and thick matte pages are enough to entice you into spending a while gazing and stroking your way through the book. Because of this fact, The Tiger Who Would Be King is good for any age, and if you feel like skipping a bit of gravity and dark depth* until they’re a little older then I’m sure Thurber will forgive you.


Or will he?…

* Actually, Thurber originally thought that it wouldn’t be published on the grounds of it being too ‘savage’ for children.


The Tiger Who Would Be King was published by Enchanted Lion


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