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When You Trap a Tiger: (Winner of the 2021 Newbery Medal) Hardcover – January 28, 2020

4.7 out of 5 stars 336 ratings

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From the Publisher

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Read all the books from Tae Keller! A sparkling tale about the power of stories and the magic of family. An uplifting story about science, family, and friendship.

Editorial Reviews


Winner of the Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award for Fiction and Poetry

"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

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. She is the Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Trap a Tiger and The Science of Breakable Things. She lives in Seattle. Visit her at, follow her monthly love letters at, and find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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Product details

  • Publisher : Random House Books for Young Readers (January 28, 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1524715700
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1524715700
  • Reading age : 8 - 12 years
  • Lexile measure : 590L
  • Grade level : 3 - 7
  • Item Weight : 14.1 ounces
  • Dimensions : 5.69 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 336 ratings

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
336 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on February 7, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars The blending of generations, cultures, magic, and reality.
By K.S. on February 7, 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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