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When You Trap a Tiger

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  4,055 ratings  ·  888 reviews
Some stories refuse to stay bottled up...

When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni's Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now, the tigers want it back. And when one of those tigers offers Lily a deal--return what Hal
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by Random House Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,055 ratings  ·  888 reviews

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Lorie Barber
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was in a bit of a reading slump when this book came to me from the publisher via a member of my reading group. I’ll be forever grateful that it did.

You never know what a book will truly be for you until you read it. It might give you the gift of humor. It might show you the world in a new way. Or it might help heal a part of you that is broken.

Sure, I could describe When You Trap a Tiger as MG magical realism. But when a book acts as a window and a mirror (Sims Bishop, 1990) simultaneously,
I'M NOT OKAY 😭 full review to come after I recover ...more
I should have known that any book that wins the Newberry Medal is one that is bound to make me cry. I should know that as a librarian. Did this still choke me up? Absolutely.

When You Trap a Tiger is so much more than the cover gives it credit for. Like other reviewers, I automatically assumed that it was going to have fantastical/magical elements. That's not to say that it didn't; however, this book was more about familial relationships and identity. Lily is used to being invisible and folds int
Alex  Baugh
"Long, long ago, when tiger walked like man..."

It's the summer before Lily begins seventh grade, and her widowed Korean American mother suddenly decides to move her and older sister Sam from their home in California to Sunbeam, Washington, to live with their Halmoni, who is very ill. Lily claims that her one superpower is the ability to make herself invisible, or what her sister calls a QAG - quiet Asian girl, unlike Sam who is always able to fit in and get along with people. But neither girl wa
M. Wolkenstein
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible - an exploration of myth and narrative both as it affects populations and individuals, with special focus on intergenerational trauma...but also the spirit of fighting for emotional and spiritual survival.

Funny and deep and with great characters - adults and kids.
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, arcs, middle-years
I'm just not a magical realism person. This story confused and frustrated me. There's a good heart here but it's not the book for me. ...more
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I purchased 3 copies and it will be on the shelves for my students in fifth grade, but I often wonder about this Newbery Medal and the criteria to win it.

"The Medal shall be awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the book considered except that it be original work."

It just says "children" w
Ms. B
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
2021 Newbery Award, this maternal family story about sisters, a mother, a grandmother and a tiger is a winner. Are magical, talking tigers real? Younger sister Lily and Halmoni, her grandma have seen one. Perhaps, there's a logical explanation? It will be up to the reader to decide.
Give this one to both the realistic fiction and fantasy fans.
Apr 19, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with all forms of entertainment in 2020, consumption of children's books was dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. That didn't stop the American Library Association awards from proceeding more or less as usual, and in January 2021, Tae Keller won the Newbery Medal for When You Trap a Tiger. The story mixes magical realism with sobering realities about growing up while on the verge of losing what is most precious to you. Twelve-year-old Lily Reeves, her fifteen-year-old sister Sam, a ...more
Grace W
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Longer review to come but this 10000% deserved the Newbery award it just won.
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked When You Trap a Tiger.
The details and the character development was incredible.
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*insert 400 weeping face emoji here*

I loved this story. Newbery, please.

Shaye Miller
I sure felt lucky to grab up an Overdrive copy of When You Trap a Tiger maybe a day after it was announced as the gold medal winner of the 2021 Newbery award. I adored The Science of Breakable Things back in 2018 and feel I’ve been very patient waiting for Keller’s latest work. And oh my, what a stunning experience of family, culture, tradition, grief, friendship, secrets, and the power of stories.

----“I am a girl who sees invisible things, but I am not invisible.”

After the death of her father,
Abby Johnson
This is a lyrical, magical portrait of a girl coming to accept the imminent death of her grandmother. It deals with the power of story and what it means to have a family and to be part of a family. Lily is a kind of misfit kid who’s used to being invisible and when her family loves in with her grandmother she begins to make some different kind of friends in the new town.

Hand to fans of Erin Entrada Kelly.
Linda Martin
Not recommended for children in Christian families. I am very disappointed. I thought this was a lovely magical realism book and sad story about a grandmother's illness - until the last chapter when the author ruined it in one very short paragraph by suddenly declaring (view spoiler) which had absolutely nothing to do with the story. It seemed to be tossed in there like a way to get "politically corr ...more
Brandy Painter
Mar 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, middle-grade
This is magical realism as it's never been done before in MG. The story is a complicated layering of identity, family, heritage, history, folklore, and myth that tells the story of one girl that is full of equal parts grief and hope. It would be impossible to unpack all of it in one review, and I'm not going to try. However, I want to point out that the beauty of this is that while it is Lily's story, it proves beautifully that none of us are just one story. We are the sum total of all the stori ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Lily and her sister, Sam, and her mother move in with her grandmother, her halmoni, and a tiger appears, threatening all that Lily loves. She is certain she must find a way to fight the tiger, but how can she, a mere QAG (Quiet Asian Girl), how can she trap a tiger? Her new friendship with a boy in town, Ricky, builds her confidence, but still the challenge feels almost overwhelming.

I loved the blend of realism and magic, the stories told by the grandmother and Lily and the tiger, the character
Heidi Burkhart
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Winner of the 2021 John Newbery Award.

The Newbery Awards are all over the place when it comes to the age level in each award book. I'd say that this title would be for a Middle School or HS audience.

The main character is a biracial girl, Lily, who moves from California with her sister and her mother to move in with her Halmoni (grandmother). Combining the challenges of moving, family problems and her grandmother's illness, tales of tigers are woven through the story and hold much importance to L
Kate Olson
Newbery Winner 2021. Once a book wins a big prize I struggle to give it a star rating unless it’s a gushing 5. I don’t have critical things to say about this book, it’s just not the type of middle grade I gravitate towards. I hope after reading it I’m able to sell it hard to kids though.
Robin Benoit
Maybe my expectations were too high for this Newbery winner, but I found it to be overworked and not at all profound. The fantasy aspect of the Tiger didn’t work for me, especially in light of the fact that the main character was too old to believe in magic, the Korean stories didn’t seem to be based on actual Korean tales, and the lesbian relationship at the end was just kind of thrown in there. I wanted to love this book but it just had too many flaws for me.
Livia Blackburne
This beautiful book covers so many themes: grief, family relationships, the power of stories, stereotypes, female empowerment, and encapsulated them all in a powerful thought provoking story. I’m going to have to reread this one and chew it over some more. I can see why it won the Newbury.
Feb 02, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
Legitimately, my friend Beth reviewed this book and it sums up ALLLLLLLL the feels.. The writing is magical but the plot has so many holes and I still have so many questions that I just finished the book saying "meh"- I'm giving it 3 stars for the writing but- meh. Read Beth's review below.

I’m still trying to figure out how to rate this book. It’s the 2021 Newberry! The writing is 5 stars. Like magic. So good. Completely in love with the writing. The story is great and the plot moves along. Majo
Anna Kim
When the sun shines during a rainstorm, it's Tiger's wedding day.

I don't remember any Korean folktales, though I'm pretty sure my mom read them to me when I was younger, but I do remember her telling me that sunshowers occur when Tiger is getting married. Tigers are an incredibly important part of Korean culture and folklore. During the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, the mascots were a pair of tigers and even the very land itself is said to resemble a tiger crouching downwards. Even today, tigers are
Look out friends! Unpopular opinion time....

I hated this book. From the description, I was expecting a fun book with Korean folktales. In my head I was imagining something along the lines of Where The Mountain Meets the Moon, a fabulous book.

What I got instead was middle-schoolers that varied from sounding like 6-year olds (mud anyone? a tiger trap?) to sounding like middle-aged philosophers. What I got was a grab-bag of themes that failed into solidify into a strong point. What I got was terrib
Nicole M. Hewitt
This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

I don’t even know what to say about this book. Sometimes you read a book that’s so special that you can’t even describe why you loved it so much. After finishing it, I put it down in awe and immediately wanted to buy myself a copy (I ended up adding it to my Christmas list). Keller’s writing is utterly gorgeous, yet very accessible to middle grade readers. The story explores Korean folklore, family relationships, frien
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, 297 pages. Random House, 2020. $17. Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G.



In the summer between sixth and seventh grade, Lily and her mom and sister move to live with their ailing grandmother, Halmoni. Lily loves Halmoni and all of her stories, so when a tiger from one of Halmoni’s stories shows up, and only Lily can see it, Lily has to figure out what the tiger wants. Lily learns tha
PVLD Reads
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fic
Weaving folklore and real life, the story of Lily, the invisible girl, and her family will speak directly to your heart. Lily, her sister Sam, and her mom move across the country to be with her halmoni and the girls aren't sure why, or why their grandmother is so sick. As Lily tries to save her grandmother by making deals with a possibly imaginary tiger in her grandmother's basement, the family learns what it means to keep stories, tell stories, and share who they are with one another.

Reviewed b
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was really melancholy. The way Tae Keller weaves the happiness with the sadness is absolutely incredible. Very well done. I was expecting the characters to be underdeveloped since it’s hard to fully develop every aspect especially side characters in a standalone but it really was perfect.
Jen (Pop! Goes The Reader)
Did you find this review helpful? Find more of my reviews at Pop! Goes The Reader!

“I am a girl who sees invisible things, but I am not invisible.”

Lily is so used to being ‘invisible’, she’s convinced it’s her super power. It’s especially difficult to speak up when her outspoken older sister, Sam, is doing enough talking for the both of them. (“What Sam doesn’t realize is that she’s already rocking our boat. If I rock it, too, the boat will flip. We’ll drown.”) It becomes difficult to remain quie
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unique and touching. The parts that took place at the library made me laugh.
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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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