After I had written my latest book, Raj the Bookstore Tiger, I thought it might be fun to do an interview with my main character – he’s quite the ca…..I mean tiger!

An Interview with,  RAJ the Bookstore Tiger

Where were you born?

A few miles down the road from Book Jungle (that’s the name of Felicity’s bookstore).  Felicity brought me home when I was just a little kit…er, I mean cub.

How many different types of tigers are there?

Usually, people will tell you that there are only five kinds of tigers that still exist today.  They come from different parts of Asia: Siberia, Mongolia, China, Indonesia, and India. But of course, they are forgetting about – the Bookstore Tiger, so that really means there are six kinds of tigers.

What about Snowball, isn’t he a white tiger?

Yes, once in a while an orange Bengal tiger can have a white cub, but it is ever so rare, and really these white tigers can have a hard time living in the wild of the jungle, because they are so easy to spot.  Good job for Snowball that he only lives in a Book Jungle and not a wild Jungle!

How is the bookstore tiger different from other tigers?

Most tigers weigh around 500 pounds or more and are about 7 – 11 feet in length, so obviously, we bookstore tigers are a bit smaller than that.  Also most tigers are skilled swimmers, while we bookstore tigers never so much as dabble a paw in the water.  But other than that, we are very similar.  We have retractable claws that we use to climb up high and to wound our prey.  We have rough, raspy tongues that help us scrape meat from bones and keep our coats clean and fresh.  We all have excellent night vision, long whiskers to feel our way in the dark, and tails that not only help us to balance, but also tell one anther how we are feeling.  We are rather solitary creatures (we don’t like crowds) and we are nocturnal (we are most active at night rather than during the day), and none of us likes getting our faces wet.

What about your stripes?  Why do tigers have stripes?

Oh yes, I almost forgot – all of us have stripes.  Just like the human fingerprint, the pattern, size, and color are different from tiger to tiger.  But whatever the size or color, these stripes help us hide when we are hunting.  You see, we can’t run as fast as some other animals, and so we have to rely on the element of surprise to catch our prey: we stalk up ever so quietly, and then we pounce at just the right moment.  Most of the customers in the store never see or hear me coming.  They get quite a scare when I leap up behind them, but of course, I am only teasing, I would never harm a customer, never!  Felicity would be most irate.

Do you prefer living in a bookstore to living in the jungle?

Well, between you and me, I’ve never actually lived in the jungle, but I do know a bit about it from hearing Sanjiv Patel and from all those stories Felicity reads to me.  So, I think I would have to say that I prefer the bookstore – I don’t think I’d like the swampy, sweaty feel of the jungle, nor all those trumpeting elephants and squawking parrots.  Mind you, some of the toddlers who come in here try to pet me with horrid sticky fingers, and they can kick up quite a ruckus when they’ve missed a nap.  Maybe it’s fair to say that there are pros and cons to both – that’s life, isn’t it?

What about your name – does it have a special meaning?

Yes, Raj is the Hindu (that is a language from India) word for King or Prince, so not only am I a tiger, but I come from royal blood.

Have you ever been to India?

No, but I feel as if I have, because Felicity reads me so many stories from there – you know, all the Rudyard Kipling ones, like Jungle Book, and the Just So Stories.

Talking of stories, can you tell us some of your favorites?

That’s hard because I have so many.  I adore fairy tales of all kinds, because they are always about the impossible becoming possible – you know, the ugly toad turning into a handsome prince or the pumpkin becoming a coach.  And, as you can imagine, I am particularly fond of any kind of cat story – be it lions or tigers or even little kitty cats – we’re all from the same family after all.  Lion and Mouse by Aesop is wonderful, and so is Androcles and the Lion, and How the Manx cat lost its tail.  For Halloween, the older kiddies enjoy a very scary Scottish story called, The Witches and Singing Mice” by Jenny Nimmo.

What about poems – can you tell us some of your favorite poems?

Naturally, Mr. Blake’s poem “Tyger Tyger  burning bright is an inspiration for me.  Other poems I enjoy – again they usually have a cat or tiger theme, are:
The Terrible Tiger by Jack Prelutsky and Pangur Ban – it’s an Irish poem about how a little cat inspires his monk to write.

Why do you like poetry so much?

Great poems make you feel so much more alive – full of life and love and wonder – and most of all, they make me want to be a better TIGER, what can be better than that!

What does Felicity do in her spare time?

Oh she keeps very busy.  She likes to read a lot, and I am her best listener.  She also writes some stories of her own, and she reads them to me first.  She dabbles a bit at painting, and so I help her choose her colors and even try mixing them together – l do love to hear the names of the colors – they’re so poetic -ochre, papaya whip, seafoam, goldenrod, chartreuse, and indigo.  Felicity likes to knit too, and so I have to help her keep all her yarn organized and sometimes that gets us both in a bit of a tangle. When she plays the piano, I jump up onto the keys and keep her in tune – really, I don’t know what she’d do without a ca….I mean a tiger like me to help her.

How do you keep so fit and trim?

Being a bookstore tiger is hard work – it’s not just about sunbasking and welcoming the  customers, you know.  We are constantly on the alert for danger, so we practice pouncing and leaping and stalking and swatting and climbing.  Really, a tiger’s work is never done!

Do you travel much?

All over the world!  That’s the best part about living in the bookstore.  Every day I get to hear stories from far off lands and long ago places.  It’s like having your very own magic carpet that whisks you away at the turn of a page.

One last question, Raj -do the children at the bookstore have a favorite book?

I don’t want to be boastful, but I do have to say that the one they clamor for time and time again is….RAJ, the Bookstore Tiger!