When You Trap a Tiger

by Tae Keller (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Would you make a deal with a magical tiger? This uplifting story brings brings Korean folklore to life as a girl goes on a quest to unlock the power of stories and save her grandmother.

Some stories refuse to stay bottled up...

When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni's Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now they want it back. And when one of the tigers approaches Lily with a deal--return what her grandmother stole in exchange for Halmoni's health--Lily is tempted to agree. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice...and the courage to face a tiger.

Tae Keller, the award-winning author of The Science of Breakable Things, shares a sparkling tale about the power of stories and the magic of family. Think Walk Two Moons meets Where the Mountain Meets the Moon!


Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review

It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture. Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic.

Booklist

Starred Review

Every chapter is filled with a richness and magic that demands every word be treasured, a heartfelt reminder of the wonder and beauty in our everyday lives. Readers young and old will want to trap this story in a jar forever.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Making deals with talking tigers was the one thing that biracial Lily's glamorous Korean grandmother, Halmoni, warned her never to do. Yet when Halmoni falls ill, a magical tiger offers Lily an ultimatum: recover the stories that Halmoni stole years ago, or lose her forever. Keller weaves Korean folk tradition with warm scenes of Korean-American domesticity--preparing food for ancestral spirits, late night snacking on kimchi. The result is a story that seamlessly transitions from the mundane to the magical, never jarring when Lily's contemporary America is sporadically replaced with a mythical land of sky gods and tiger girls. Beyond the magical elements, a diverse cast of characters populate Lily's world--her sullen older sister, Sam; her widowed mother; the kind library staff; and Ricky, a new friend with more than one family secret. While the pacing is slow, the characters' development feels authentic and well drawn. Keller's (The Science of Breakable Things) #OwnVoices journey through Korean mythology begins with a fantastical quest and slowly transforms into a tale about letting go and the immortality that story can allow. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-7--Lily has always loved her halmoni's stories; Korean folktales that begin, "long, long ago, when tiger walked like a man." But Lily never expected to encounter the fierce magical tiger in her sick grandmother's basement, or to strike a deal to heal Halmoni by releasing the powerful stories she stole as a young woman. Keller illuminates Lily's desperation to heal Halmoni and bring her family together through the tiger stories interspersed throughout the book; stories of heroism and self-sacrifice, of sisterhood and bravery. Yet the book's greatest strength is in its complex human characters, from Halmoni whose traumatic immigration story spurs her to unite her community through kindness and herbal remedies, to Lily's prickly older sister Sam, whose grief and fear stirred up by Halmoni's illness exists alongside a budding romance with a new girlfriend. Lily worries about her invisibility and living up to the "quiet Asian girl" stereotype she hates, but she doesn't know how else to cope with her volatile teenage sister or her mother's need to pretend that everything is okay, despite the weight of family trauma past and present. Keller weaves ancient folklore with Korean history through contemporary magical realism. She calls on the power of stories to bring families and communities together and the ability to heal by speaking to their pasts. VERDICT This deeply moving book is a must-purchase for all collections, showcasing vulnerable and mythic storytelling in the vein of Erin Entrada Kelly and Kacen Callender.--Molly Saunders, Manatee County Public Libraries, Bradenton, FL

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"It's a complex, satisfying story, one that foregrounds family and healing alongside a love for Korean folklore." —Bulletin, starred review

"This beautiful book reminds us that, even in a world filled with stolen stars, crafty tigers, and family secrets that spring from folklore, the most powerful magic of storytelling is the story we decide to tell about ourselves." Kat Yeh, author of The Truth About Twinkie Pie

"An intoxicating mix of folktale, fantasy, friendship and love (and tigers!). Through a series of challenges—and also a lot of laughter—Lily (a.k.a. Lily Bean, Eggi, Little Egg) finds out what she is made of. She is a character who'll stay with me—and whom I already miss!" —Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of Finding My Voice and Somebody's Daughter

"An ambitious and bewitching brew of Korean folklore, magical realism, and classic coming-of-age story, When You Trap a Tiger is a tender tale as unique as it is universal. Keller's writing shimmers with magic, heart, and hope." —Ali Standish, author of Before I Was Ethan

"Holy moly!!! This book made me feel." —Colby Sharp, editor of The Creativity Project

"Natalie is an engaging narrator whose struggles at home and with her peers ring true." —Deborah Hopkinson, award-winning author

"Inspiring, emotional, and heartwarming." —Melissa Savage, author of Lemons
Tae Keller

Tae Keller grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she subsisted on kimchi, purple rice, and stories. Now, she writes about biracial girls trying to find their voices, and lives in Seattle with her husband and a multitude of books. She is the author of The Science of Breakable Things and When You Trap a Tiger, winner of the Newberry Medal.

Geraldine Rodriguez is a Mexican illustrator and digital artist, animation enthusiast, and a big fan of great stories. She lives in Mexico.

Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9781524715700
Lexile Measure
590L
Guided Reading Level
V
Publisher
Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 20, 2020
Series
-
BISAC categories
JUV039030 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Death & Dying
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV012060 - Juvenile Fiction | Legends, Myths, Fables | Asian
Library of Congress categories
Storytelling
Sick
Grandmothers
Sisters
Tiger
Korean Americans
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred, 12/01/19
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
Winner

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