Title: Iris and the Tiger
Author: Leanne Hall
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: 27th January 2016
Rating: 5/5 stars
Twelve-year-old Iris has been sent to Spain on a mission: to make sure her elderly and unusual aunt, Ursula, leaves her fortune – and her sprawling estate – to Iris’s scheming parents.
But from the moment Iris arrives at Bosque de Nubes, she realises something isn’t quite right. There is an odd feeling around the house, where time moves slowly and Iris’s eyes play tricks on her. While outside, in the wild and untamed forest, a mysterious animal moves through the shadows.
Just what is Aunt Ursula hiding?
But when Iris discovers a painting named Iris and the Tiger, she sets out to uncover the animal’s real identity – putting her life in terrible danger.
This is an absolutely gorgeous middle-grade story! Iris is a gorgeous little 12-year-old, who is just trying to figure out what the adults are hiding from her. She has been sent to stay with her great aunt, and her parents want her to spy on everyone – they want to make sure Ursula leaves her fortune, and especially the beautiful estate on which she lives the Bosque de Nubes, to their side of the family.
The characters were all excellent. Iris is a mixed-culture kid, visiting her crazy aunt. Ursula was always bustling, and never explaining anything properly! There was a great twist to the identity of Ursula’s close friend Señor Garcia (and no, he isn’t her lover!) And Iris makes a great friend in Jordi, a young boy who lives on the property.
Great Aunt Ursula’s brother was a very famous artist, James Freer. His surreal work decorates the house, and Iris is certain that she can literally see his inspiration – these paintings are not just products of his imagination, but are real! I absolutely loved the sunflowers on the tennis court!
Iris isn’t sure whether the things she can see are real, or not. But she becomes obsessed with one of her great uncle’s paintings in particular, Iris and the Tiger. The painting is of James Freer’s wife, Iris’ namesake, but there is no tiger to be seen! Iris is convinced that the tiger wandered out of the painting, and she is determined to find it. As Iris learns more about the artwork and its origins, we as readers learn a lot about the genre of surreal art. Not being a very artsy person, I was thrilled to learn a little bit more about the subject through fiction. This story makes art accessible – I feel like I won’t completely embarrass myself if I ever go to a surrealist exhibit! 😛
While the main plot focuses on Iris’ search for the tiger, there are also fears about the property’s future. There are rumours in the village that developers are sniffing around, trying to convince everyone that a theme park would be perfect in place of the estate. That would mean cutting down forests in which James Freer’s surreal creatures live.
This book was absolutely GORGEOUS! Not only did it make me care about art, but I became very invested in the characters and their fight to save Bosque de Nubes. I loved all the cacophony going on about the inheritance, coming from a family where it tends towards problematic. I particularly loved that Iris was a great representation of that age group – even when her parents try to keep stuff from her, she knows there is more going on and wants to be included.
A brilliant story from a fantastic Australian writer. (Although I liked this book A LOT more than This is Shyness…..) Surreal, but fun, this book is perfect not just for middle grade readers, but adults will also take much away from this story.