Tiger Smiles

Augustus and his smile

Ten years ago Catherine Rayner won the Book Trust Early Years Award with Augustus and His Smile. This lovely picture book about emotion and the landscape of the world captivated readers with the beauty of its ink and wash illustrations.

Augustus the Tiger is sad and has lost his smile. He sets off to find it…and searches through a multitude of landscapes, until in the end he realises that happiness is all around him – and finds his smile in his reflection in water. Of course, the story is simple enough, but the magic of the book lies in the intensity of the illustrations – apparent from the start when Augustus stretches before his search.

Rayner’s illustration of Augustus stretching reaches across a double page, and blends the ink and gentle orange toning with the wildness of the reeds and grasses in which he is stretching. It’s an image that is almost tangible – immediately apparent that Rayner took her inspiration and guidance from tigers she watched in Edinburgh zoo.

A colour wash lends a fluid feel to the images, capturing the movement of the animals, birds and insects. The images are simple, minimalistic, but created with shadow and scale to create a perspective of real animals in the wild.

The tiger’s padding and leaping is magical, as is the fact that Rayner has also managed to incorporate a human smile into the tiger’s face, without it being strange – it is as much a part of him as his tail.

Smiles are contagious – studies have found that it’s not impossible, but actually very difficult to remain frowning at someone who is smiling back. Developing babies even smile in the womb. And for children it is important for them to be shown smiles. Over a third of us smile more than 20 times a day, but for children the number of smiles a day rises to a staggering 400, and we want to keep it that way. Perhaps we can learn from this too – a study at Penn State University found that when you smile, you appear more likeable, courteous, and even more competent.

There’s another reason to smile with the 10th anniversary edition (with gold foil jacket) of Augustus and His Smile. David Shephard Wildlife Foundation are offering animal adoptions (tigers) with a special edition adoption pack including a signed edition Augustus print, the book, and a soft tiger toy.

Tigers have lost about 93 per cent of their natural range due to deforestation and climate change, among other things, and are an endangered species. But we can smile, as tiger numbers in the wild are now finally on the rise again up to 3,890 in April 2016 from 3,200 in 2010. Wildlife charities would like to double tiger numbers by 2022, giving them enhanced protection from illegal wildlife markets and compensating for, and halting, the loss of their natural habitat.

Take a look at the book, admire the tigers, find your smile and hopefully the next generation will be smiling at the doubled number of tigers in a few years’ time. You can buy the book here.