Love Volume 1: The Tiger by Frédéric Brrémaud, Federico Bertolucci

Love Volume 1 is the first in a series following a certain wild animal and a day in their life – from the search for food, interaction with other animals, fights with rivals, and afternoon naps (volume 2 follows the story of a fox). The story is nuanced, with many twists and turns. The watercolor artwork is stunning – a joy to explore. Although wordless, the story follows a definitive arc (the search for the day’s food). The jungle has never looked so lovely and the animals, though perhaps more cartoony than lifelike, are rich with lovely detail.

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Story: A tiger hunts a tapir. When his prey escapes, the tiger will move on. But other hunters and more dangerous prey mean make finding his next meal difficult. From crocs to panthers, elephants to mice, both the tapir and the tiger will have to survive the day against all odds.

The pencil and watercolor drawings are exquisite. Beautifully drawn with nuances in color variety that you can only get from that medium. A very green jungle is transformed in shades and tints of yellow and blue then offset with reds. It means the orange/beige tiger and grey/white tapir really stood out in each scene. The backgrounds supported the main characters and surprisingly never overwhelmed them

The plot itself was a bit underwhelming. There is no moral here, no ‘majestic animal of the jungle’ or other statement. It’s a simple survival piece with an introduction attesting to the “Love” of the title referring to animals neither loving nor hating each other. What threw me off in the story were the interaction scenes. E.g., the tapir runs from the tiger and ends up in a stream, goes through an underground river, and is ejected in a waterfall – without harm. It felt too unrealistic. Similarly, the tiger fight with a croc, in a piranha infested water, never felt particularly menacing. Especially since we see the piranha often but they don’t really do anything in the story other than show off teeth.

There are a wide variety of animals encountering each other. From red ants to baboons, python to a panther pride. Even the fox from the next volume. But oddly they watch a lot of the action rather than being a part of the story (as with tree-bound peacocks). I had a hard time comprehending why they were there (other than to preen or run in and steal a prey while the larger predators fought). But then, perhaps this story is much more about the jungle than the tiger.

So while the story didn’t engage, and the situations felt a bit too cartoony, the artwork was so incredibly stunning that I just enjoyed that with pleasure. Words definitely weren’t needed as the story was quite successfully conveyed through the images. And the overall plot cleverly integrated all kinds of players who briefly connect and then disconnect with the story of the tiger search for food.

Reviewed from an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher.

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