Tiger is a young cub, and Monster, who her parents think is an imaginary friend, lives under her bed. Monster is a blue and white creature who very literally frightens and fights off the creatures that come in the middle of the night to try to give Tiger nightmares. Tiger doesn’t have nightmares as long as her Monster is around…until Monster meets its match. A big shadowy creature with a crocodile skull and antlers fights to infiltrate Tiger’s dreams, sending Monster cowering under the bed while it looms grinning overhead. Together, Tiger and Monster must come up with a plan to send the big bad creature packing so they can both sleep well at night.
The setting is somewhat futuristic, which is a curious choice (Tiger’s parents appear to be mechanics who work on hovering vehicles). However, Tetri does not dive into these details, as the majority of the scenes occur within Tiger’s house. The story is told in panels, but the edges of these panels are slightly fuzzy, a delightful detail aligned with the watercolor art. The choice of watercolors lends an imprecise dreaminess to the story, perfect for a book about nightmares. The selection of colors is kept fairly limited, mostly greens and yellows for daytime scenes and shades of blue, black, and gray for nighttime scenes, which makes the ending scene even more impactful. The burst of orange and yellow that appears when Tiger confronts her nightmare seems to embody her spirit and truly display her strength.
Tetri’s style is very endearing, with sweetly expressive characters and adorable details tucked into panels (Tiger’s mouthwash is called “fang wash” and her shampoo is called “stripes and coat”). I love the way that Tetri captures little realistic moments, such as Monster stretching its arms every night before bed in preparation for encountering nightmares. Tiger is a very likable character who’s easy to identify with as well as a good model for behavior. When Monster fails to fight off the nightmare, Tiger doesn’t get angry, but gently confronts her friend to address her fear and disappointment. The story is about the strength and power you can wield when confronting your nightmares, but also about the trust and openness that goes into maintaining friendships. Tiger is overwhelmingly adorable when she confronts the nightmare, glaring it defiantly in the face while bearing her two tiny fangs, contributing to the light-hearted tone of the book. While her parents don’t truly believe their daughter has a monster for a friend, they don’t mock her or tell her she’s too old for imaginary friends; instead they ask if Monster has any dinner requests. This level of support is encouraging for growth, and is always delightful to see represented.
This title was a 2019 Eisner Award nominee in the category of best publication for early readers, and rightfully so. The gorgeous art and sweet storyline are sure to capture both kids and parents.
Tiger vs. Nightmare
By Emily Tetri
First Second, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 6-10