“She pictured a golden head with golden eyes and pricked ears, somewhere in the house. A striped body prowling down the curling staircase, out the front door and into the forest. Tail flicking as it moved beyond the edge of the painting and out into the real world. The tiger, doing exactly as it pleased, not caring in the slightest about the rules that should have kept it on the canvas”
Iris and the Tiger is the first novel for younger readers written by Australian author, Leanne Hall. She may be only twelve, but her parents have set her a formidable task: Iris is to go to Spain and secure the estate of her Great Aunt Ursula. Ursula Freer must be in her nineties by now, and they are sure that some unscrupulous gold-digger will talk her out of her fortune and Bosque de Nubes, her country house and its extensive grounds,.
Iris is met at the airport by the very uncommunicative Senor Garcia. No information to be gained there. Her Great Aunt, intense and artistic, is welcoming, reciting for her a special arrival poem, and even throwing her a dinner party, but Iris is soon aware that things are very strange at Bosque de Nubes.
It’s not just the funny-looking paintings (surreal, she is informed), but a seemingly live banister, a set of boots with a mind of their own, sheet music that looks like ants and a pair of sporty sunflowers. Not to mention the scary-looking dark woods nearby. The neighbours seem a bit odd, but luckily the gardener’s son, Jordi can speak some English and is happy to show her around, and to help her look for the tiger that has escaped from the painting of her namesake, titled ‘Iris and the Tiger’.
Younger (and not-so-young) readers will delight in this marvellously original tale, with its clever plot and wealth of imaginative ideas. Hall doesn’t talk down to her readers: her characters are believable, their dialogue is natural and there is some entertaining wordplay. The cover and chapter illustrations by Sandra Eterovic are particularly charming. This is an utterly enchanting book.