Book Reviews, Childrens Book Illustration, Fabi Santiago, For the Mudwaffler Gallery..., Orchard Books, Q&A

Tiger in a Tutu, PLUS Q&A with Fabi Santiago

Tiger in a Tutu, was published on 10th March 2016 by Orchard Books. Written and illustrated by Fabi Santiago, this book is a thing of beauty.

Said the Mudwaffler… ‘Tiger in a Tutu is a beautiful book in every way. Be like Max; chase your dreams and do what you love.’



The Story

Once upon a time in Paris, not so long ago, there lived a tiger called Max.

Now, as you might have already gathered by the title, Max is no ordinary tiger. He’s not in the jungle for a start. And I don’t much see him munching on someone’s leg… No, when we are first introduced, Max is lounging on a Chez-Lounge, being presented lunch on a platter by his zookeeper butler and being wafted by a monkey with a leaf. As intros go, this one is a corker.


What Max wants most of all, is to be a ballet dancer… to pirouette and plié, to leap and spin. He wants to be a dazzling dancer, shining on the stage!


Everyday he visits the Ballet School, but he can’t go inside – tigers aren’t allowed – and so, Max watches the class through the window and wishes he could join in. He watches every move and wishes he had a friend to dance with. He might not have ballet shoes or a tutu, but he has music in his heart and it’s that that drives him.

He practices his heart out, pirouetting through the streets of Paris, lost inside his ballet dream, and finishes with a twirl at the top of the Eiffel Tower. He’s rather good. But the Parisians don’t agree. Max has given it his all, but there’s no one there to clap or cheer. He’s alone.

No one wants a tiger dancing through the streets of Paris.

Max is heartbroken. But, there is someone who was impressed by his dancing; Celeste is a ballet dancer too, and she has a plan… she takes him backstage at the ballet theatre, finds him a pair of ballet shoes and a ‘tiger sized tutu’… and Max looks fantastic!

Tiger in a Tutu 4

He’s worried the spectators at the theatre will run away when they see him, like the people in the streets did before, but with a kind word or two of encouragement from Celeste, he’s ready to go…

“Dance like only you can dance. You are Max, the tiger in a tutu!”

Tiger in a Tutu 3

And what happens next? You guessed it, there’s a stampede! The spectators flee (one even seems to have forgotten his trousers!) and soon enough the ballet theatre is empty. It’s just as Max feared.

No audience. No applause. But this time he was not alone.

I’ll leave it there for you to discover the end of this dancing adventure. It’s bound to get you chasing your dreams.

The Artwork

Fabi Santiago has delivered a beautiful book in Tiger in a Tutu. I’ve been lucky enough to meet her and talk picture books and even got to ask about her illustration process – the whole of Tiger in a Tutu was screen-printed by Fabi. This has given an individual look to each spread that couldn’t be made up in digitally, and the final book is, as I said earlier, beautiful.  I’m a huge fan of every medium but I have to say how nice it is that this one is made in a more traditional method. The colour palette of  green and pink and blue and brown and yellow works a treat, guiding our eyes through each page, through the streets of Paris and right into the Ballet Theatre. Which leads us to Fabi’s line-work – it’s loose and curly and full of energy and a lesson in delivery. Her characters are fantastic! Have a look at all their expressions and poses and actions (the piano player is another one to spot). You can find out more about how Fabi made Tiger in a Tutu on her blog post here.

Tiger in a Tutu is full of encouragement for anyone following their dreams. Full of hope for anyone thinking of giving up. And full of joy for anyone who enjoys a top class picture book story. It’s one I’ve looked at a hundred times and will, no doubt, a hundred times more.

The Mudwaffler has become rather obsessed with ballet ever since this book landed in his nest. He’s bought himself a tutu and has been practicing in the woods, day and night. He was last seen boarding a plane to Paris…


Now, it’s WAFFLE time!

We are joined by fabulous Fabi Santiago for a Q&A…

What inspired you to make Tiger in a Tutu?

There’s my ballet and dance background that to begin with, always finds a way into my work. But initially the very first idea came from being very bored and deciding to go t the zoo to draw big cats. I highly recommend getting yourself bored sometimes, that’s when you give your mind the space for new ideas. It was then that I came up with the character Max.

The following week, my boyfriend took me to the ballet and I just put the things together as in “Oh a ballet dancing tiger!”. I know, sometimes we’re supposed to be having fun, or cleaning the house, or catching a plane, or in the middle or our sleep, but our minds just won’t stop working. So I was watching the ballet but really just ‘writing’ the story in my head.

I was taking my illustration MA at the time and when I presented the story, my tutor suggested lacing it somewhere… why not Paris? I bought a plane ticket on that day.

What are you currently working on (any sneak peek news!?)?

I’m doing a few things. AS with most book projects, it’s all very secrety secret, and I don’t know how much I can tell before my publishers think I’m a very bad naughty person.

There’s a picture book with Orchard and another with Scholastic, both written and illustrated by myself and coming out next year. And then I’ve got a few other mostly top secret things I’m plotting. NO, I’m not telling you but here’s the sneakiest of peeks:


What is your favourite thing to draw?

I have many favourites: location, ballerinas and theatre life (who would guess that).  Then I love drawing animals – some specific favourites are dinosaurs in birthday hats, cats (in and out of boxes), horses and unicorns.

I know some illustrators dread drawing horses but not this one here! I have a special fondness for them and am surprised I haven’t done a horse book YET. I once drew 100 horses and out of those made a collection of 50 cardboard horses with my daughter, each with a unique technique and pattern. Here’s proof:



Who or what are your influences?

I’m a sucker for the great modern painters: Matisse, Degas, Picasso, Miro and Chagall. Sure they are my biggest influences.

I fell in love with the Fauvists in art school, with their crazy bold colours and their complete disdain for painting things the way they ’should be’. Can you see any of that in my work? (Why not a pink sky? Why not a yellow tiger?)

Now just imagine how much I was in my element when I went to draw the Paris Opera: There was a single ballerina rehearsing on the stage, framed by bright red curtains and that stunning and colourful Chagall ceiling.

As for illustrators, my big “I-wish-I-were-those-people” are Dahlov Ipcar, Tove Jansson, Saul Bass, Ludwig Bemelmans, Roger Duvoisin and Maira Kalman.

Do you have any advice for illustrators and writers who are just starting out?

Tough one as I’m just starting out too! Still, if I can give any piece of advice…

Be yourself. Go find your voice, find what’s ‘you’ in your art.

It can be a certain way you do things, it may have to do with your media of choice or your themes, it can even be something you can’t avoid. That’s what’s going to make your art yours.

It’s unlikely that you are going to go far with your work if it looks like someone else’s. Even if you do, well, that’s a bit sad! You want people to want your work and feel excited about it. You want to be proud of it. Avoid trendy styles and what everyone else is doing. Go make great, honest art that comes from the heart!

(Having said that, nothing wrong with having our heroes and getting inspiration from them!)

and three for fun…

What are three words that best describe you?


What is your favourite colour?

I don’t have a favourite colour, I like many colours, in fact I like all bold, bright happy colours and I also like intriguing, mysterious, moody colours.

I do have an UNfavourite colour, and that is beige. There’s nothing sadder, more unimpressive or as bland and unsavouringly boring as beige.

If you could share a cuppa with anyone (alive or dead), anywhere, who would it be and where would you go?

Why, the Tiger who came to Tea, of course.

Tiger could come to my house, so we’d skip formalities (although he’s known for not caring and having bad manners). I should have the kitchen cupboards well loaded and maybe order some baked goodies, tons of tiger food and gallons of tea.

Being aware of the implausibility of a real tiger knocking at my door, I would love to share a cuppa with Judith Kerr and talk about picture books and… tigers!

HUGE thanks to Fabi Santiago for featuring on the Mudwaffler and for this absolutely super illustration of the Mudwaffler in a tutu!


Be sure to check out…

Fabi’s website:

or find her on Twitter: @Fabi_uk

Swamp Hugs! Till the next time…

The Mudwaffler




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