Iris and the Tiger (Leanne Hall, Text)
Twelve-year-old Iris Chen-Taylor is on a mission from her parents: she’s been sent to visit her Great Aunt Ursula in Spain to discover who will inherit her grand estate, and the collection of surrealist paintings left by Ursula’s famous brother James. But there are more interesting mysteries at Aunt Ursula’s estate than the ones Iris’ parents want her to snoop around. The house and forest are full of impossible magic that seems connected to Uncle James’ surrealist paintings. Iris is an appealingly human protagonist: she can see through her parents but she’s also desperate to impress them, at least until her visit begins to make her see things differently. The mystery unfolds well, with some unusual twists, although the theme of the tiger from the book’s title feels a little unfinished. The surrealist magic is the most refreshing element of the book: it’s a kind of magical realism that is unusual in children’s and YA fantasy. There are giant silent insects and sunflowers playing tennis, and while the magic is sometimes frightening, the weirdness doesn’t make it sinister, only special and strange. Iris and the Tiger will appeal to older primary and younger high-school readers who like magic and are, like Iris, bored by teen romances.
Jarrah Moore is a primary literacy editor at Cengage Learning Australia