We Became Jaguars

by Dave Eggers (Author) Woodrow White (Illustrator)

We Became Jaguars
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

When Grandma comes to visit, and his parents leave them alone, the boy's grandmother encourages him to imitate a jaguar, until completely transformed they venture out into the night, exploring the world from a new perspective, and with a new freedom--until it is difficult to distinguish imagination from reality.

Revel in the breathtaking fantasticality of We Became Jaguars a picture book from bestselling author Dave Eggers. When Grandma comes to visit and a young boy's parents leave, the rules of the house and the world change: grandson and grandmother transform into jaguars!

Readers follow their journey into the undiscovered world of nature, experience true freedom, and lose themselves in an exhilarating adventure. After a day of playing, running, and climbing through sumptuous landscapes, the ending will leave you wondering what's real and what's imagined.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review

From the minute the child narrator’s slim, stylish grandmother arrives for a visit ("Her hair was very white/ and very, very long") and his parents leave, she’s ready for some serious make believe. "Let’s be jaguars," she says, growling on all fours on the rug. The boy tries to follow suit: "No, leaner," she tells him. "Now faster." In spreads by artist White, making his picture book debut, the two morph into real jaguars, sprinting gracefully through the woods and to lands beyond. The child is simultaneously cowed and enthralled by the grandmother’s wildness. When she offers a rabbit that she’s just killed, "I didn’t want to eat raw rabbit so I said I was allergic." When he expresses doubt that they can run across a lake, she counsels perfect confidence, and she’s right: "We bounced across like marbles on glass." Working in milky shades, White succeeds in making the duo readable in the faces and bodies of the two cats. The vivid concept that a grandmother’s visit delivers danger and freedom instead of cozy reassurance is a winner, and Eggers (Most of the Better Natural Things in the World) develops it with easy humor and jaguar-speed pacing. 

Copyright 2021 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 2-A young boy is visited by his grandmother. When she suggests they be jaguars, the boy gives her his best jaguar impersonation: crawling on all fours, as elegantly as possible. The boy and his grandmother scurry around the living room and suddenly find themselves in a lush jungle. For the remainder of the book, they are portrayed as sleek jungle cats. Is this real, or in their imagination? Eggers not only transmogrifies his characters into jaguars, he also uses the word "jaguar" as both noun and verb with the repeated refrain: "We jaguared on." This playfulness isn't restricted to language. White's illustrations are spirited and clever. The surreal transformation from human to jaguar is sumptuously depicted on a stunning gatefold. Later, when the jaguars drink from a cool stream, their human faces appear in the water's rippled surface. White's color palette is beautiful. The two explore the world from evening to daylight to sunset. At night, the jaguars glow green in the midst of the dark jungle, purple like a velvet painting. In the mountains, their fur reflects the warmth of the setting sun. Eventually the child must return to the real world. School awaits. He leaves a realm of imagination that is so fantastic it feels real, or so real that it feels fantastic? VERDICT A must-have tale about the power of imagination.

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


Starred Review

Children will relish this book’s blurred ambiguities; what’s real and what’s imagined are as hard to distinguish as a jaguar in the shadows. A fresh inversion of expectations told in vivid art and idiom. (Picture book. 4-8).

Copyright 2021 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission.

Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers is the author of many books for adults and a few for young people, including The Wild Things. He is the co-founder of 826 National, a network of writing, tutoring and publishing centres for youth.

Fabian Negrin was born in Argentina in 1963 and from when he was fifteen years old he drew every day, sometimes all day. He came to Italy more than twenty years ago and has now illustrated and written about a hundred books for children in Europe, Asia and America. He has a son and lives in Milan.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Chronicle Books
Publication date
March 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV002150 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Lions, Tigers, Leopards, etc.
Library of Congress categories
Grandparent and child
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 02/01/21

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