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When You Trap a Tiger: (Winner of the 2021 Newbery Medal) by [Tae Keller]
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When You Trap a Tiger: (Winner of the 2021 Newbery Medal) Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 525 ratings

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Product description

About the Author

TAE KELLER was born and raised in Honolulu, where she grew up on purple rice, Spam musubi, and her halmoni's tiger stories. After high school, she moved in search of snow, and now lives in New York City. She is also the author of The Science of Breakable Things. Visit her at, follow her monthly love letters at, and find her on Twitter and Instagram. --This text refers to the paperback edition.


"Roars to life with just a touch of magic.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A heartfelt reminder of the wonder and beauty in our everyday lives.” Booklist, starred review

Deeply moving... vulnerable and mythic storytelling in the vein of Erin Entrada Kelly and Kacen Callender.” School Library Journal, starred review

“Keller’s (The Science of Breakable Things) #OwnVoices journey through Korean mythology begins with a fantastical quest and slowly transforms into a tale about letting go and the immortality that story can allow.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“It’s a complex, satisfying story, one that foregrounds family and healing alongside a love for Korean folklore.” —The Bulletin, starred review

"This beautiful book reminds us that, even in a world filled with stolen stars, crafty tigers, and family secrets that spring from folklore, the most powerful magic of storytelling is the story we decide to tell about ourselves." Kat Yeh, author of The Truth About Twinkie Pie

"An intoxicating mix of folktale, fantasy, friendship and love (and tigers!). Through a series of challenges--and also a lot of laughter--Lily (a.k.a. Lily Bean, Eggi, Little Egg) finds out what she is made of. She is a character who'll stay with me--and whom I already miss!" —Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of Finding My Voice and Somebody's Daughter

"An ambitious and bewitching brew of Korean folklore, magical realism, and classic coming-of-age story, When You Trap a Tiger is a tender tale as unique as it is universal. Keller's writing shimmers with magic, heart, and hope." —Ali Standish, author of Before I Was Ethan

Praise for Tae Keller's The Science of Breakable Things:

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, and the Chicago Public Library!

"A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A winning story full of heart and action." —Booklist, starred review

"Holy moly!!! This book made me feel." —Colby Sharp, editor of The Creativity Project

"Natalie is an engaging narrator whose struggles at home and with her peers ring true." —Deborah Hopkinson, award-winning author

"Inspiring, emotional, and heartwarming." —Melissa Savage, author of Lemons --This text refers to the library edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07T3XFT5S
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House Books for Young Readers (28 January 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 6343 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 300 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 525 ratings

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
525 global ratings

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2.0 out of 5 stars Don't think it will appeal to the targeted age group
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 September 2021
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not for elementary students
Reviewed in the United States on 1 June 2021
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157 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars The blending of generations, cultures, magic, and reality.
Reviewed in the United States on 7 February 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars The blending of generations, cultures, magic, and reality.
Reviewed in the United States on 7 February 2020
Ever since she was a small child, Lily’s Halmoni has told her stories about tigers and warned her of their duplicity. When Lily’s family moves to Washington and she sees a tiger in the middle of the road, she learns that the stories her Halmoni told her are tangled with half-truths, stars, and family secrets. In an effort to save her Halmoni from her terminal illness, Lily traps the very tiger that she was warned about — but will it help heal Halmoni, or will the terrible stories grow teeth?

From the moment Lily looked out of the car window and spied a tiger in the rain, this story had my heart. It’s so much more than a novel about a girl learning to deal with the loss of her beloved grandmother — it’s a story about the blending of generations, the blending of cultures, and the blending of magic, myth, and reality. The very real and extremely raw challenges that Lily faces (moving to a new town, making new friends, dealing with a terminally ill family member, growing apart from her sister and mother) are infused with magic in a way that keeps readers questioning what is real and what is merely imagined.

One of the most obvious examples of this is that Lily repeatedly encounters and converses with a tiger, but only in the dead of night, and once after she admits to having fallen asleep. It would be easy to write off the tiger as a figment of her sleep-deprived imagination, but at the end of the story, the tiger clears a path through the rain — a path which Lily’s sister, Sam, can clearly see. Of course, Halmoni can see the tiger as well, but there are several heartbreaking scenes sprinkled throughout the novel that make it clear that hallucinations are a side effect of her brain cancer. So what is real, then? What power do words, stories, and tigers have?

As someone who doesn’t know much about Korean folklore and spirituality, I was fascinated with the mythology and descriptions of ritualistic practices such as kosa and using mugwort for protection. The author’s note at the end of the novel delves further into the author’s connection to her Korean heritage, and it’s definitely worth a read.

As a reader, writer, and teacher, I love this book because it is a story about stories. Lily finds inner-strength, yes, but it’s clear that words have strength, too. Ultimately, her power comes from being brave enough to forge her own story.
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61 people found this helpful
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1.0 out of 5 stars Warning for parents!
Reviewed in the United States on 30 September 2021
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37 people found this helpful
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LA in Dallas
4.0 out of 5 stars Long ago, long ago, when man walk like tiger...
Reviewed in the United States on 17 April 2021
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30 people found this helpful
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About the author

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TAE KELLER grew up in Honolulu, where she wrote stories, ate Spam musubis, and participated in her school’s egg drop competition. (She did not win.) After graduating from Bryn Mawr College, she moved to New York City to work in publishing, and she now has a very stubborn Yorkie and a multitude of books as roommates.

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