• US Edition

When You Trap a Tiger

Winner of the Newbery Medal and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Children's Literature, this is an unforgettable novel about family, the power of stories, and finding your voice.

“Halmoni,” I whispered, “will you tell us a story?”

My grandmother smiled, took a deep breath, and started with the Korean version of “once upon a time”:

“Long, long ago, when tiger walked like man . . .”

Lily often feels invisible. Her older sister calls her a QAG (Quiet Asian Girl). When Lily and her family move in with her sick halmoni, a magical tiger straight out of her grandmother’s Korean folktales arrives. Suddenly, Lily feels seen.

The tiger offers Lily a deal: if Lily will open Halmoni’s star jars and let the tiger drink the stories inside, the tiger will heal her grandmother. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice . . . and the courage to face a tiger.

Rights details

USA/Canada: Random House (January 2020)
Audio: Listening Library
Korea: Dolbegae
Complex Chinese/Taiwan: San Min
Persian: Porteghaal
Germany: HarperCollins
Simplified Chinese: China South Booky
Romania: Grupul Editorial Art
Japan: Hyoronsha
Lithuania: Baltos Lankos
Bulgaria: Info Dal
Spanish (Americas): Oceano

Film representation: Jasmine Lake at United Talent

Good news

Audio book selection for Junior Library Guild

2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s Best of the Year list


Vermont’s 2021 Golden Dome Book Award List

Recommended by the Kansas National Education Association’s Reading Circle Commission

Enters the Indies Bestseller list the week of January 31, 2021

New York Times Bestseller list

First enters the list the week of February 14, 2021. Multiple weeks on the list, including at #5.

Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature – ALA Book Awards 2021

Literature Awards

New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2020


NCTE Charlotte Huck Recommended Title for Outstanding Fiction for Children

A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2020 (middle-grade category)


An Amazon Best Book of January 2020 (age 9-12)

Starred review (#5!) from School Library Journal

“Keller weaves ancient folklore with Korean history through contemporary magical realism. She calls on the power of stories to bring families and communities together and the ability to heal by speaking to their pasts. VERDICT This deeply moving book is a must-purchase for all collections, showcasing vulnerable and mythic storytelling in the vein of Erin Entrada Kelly and Kacen Callender.”

Starred Review from Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Readers will pick up on the themes of repressed trauma and healing through storytelling, which are rendered age-friendly through the folkloric framework. It’s a complex, satisfying story, one that foregrounds family and healing alongside a love for Korean folklore.”

Starred review from Publishers Weekly

“[The]#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.”

Starred review from Kirkus

“Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture. Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic.”

Starred review from Booklist

“Every chapter is filled with a richness and magic that demands every word be treasured, a heartfelt reminder of the wonder and beauty in our everyday lives … Readers young and old will want to trap this story in a jar forever.”