SF Said, illus. Dave McKean. Oxford: David Fickling Books, hb. 978 1 7884 5283 0, 2022, £12.99, 304pp.
Fiction, novel, 9-12 years
“There are infinite possible histories of the world, and of yourselves. So you should never stop questioning the world, and everything in it; wondering how it could be different.”
Set in 21st-century imperial London, where slavery still exists, Tyger is centred on Adam, the son of immigrant parents who works as a delivery boy for their shop. Despite being born in London, he is constantly being picked on for looking different (“Where are you really from?”) and lives with his family in the Soho Ghetto – the only place ‘foreigners’ are allowed to live. Soldiers, checkpoints, and hangings are their everyday reality.
On one of his daily work runs, Adam is attacked and chased by a robber until he finds refuge in a ruined building. There he meets a mysterious and magical animal – Tyger, who is wounded and in great danger as she is hunted by the evil Sir Mortimer Maldehyde and his huntsmen. A being of infinity and eternity, Tyger is on a mission to bring light back into this world. Tyger helps Adam discover his hidden gifts, such as seeing the sparks inside people’s hearts. With his new friend, a true wordsmith Zadie, Adam embarks on a thrilling and spiritual quest to save Tyger’s life and, ultimately, the whole world from destruction equipped purely with the ‘superpowers’ of perception, creation, and imagination.
Filled with magic, mythology, and deep symbolism, this is a story of friendship, loyalty, courage, and determination that will inspire readers to harness their own powers of perception and empathy and to follow their dreams to create a life they believe in.
Dave McKean, the illustrator of all SF Said’s books, has created a real thing of beauty with the incredibly dramatic cover depicting half a face of a tiger with a picture of London buried in its fur and the bold black-and-white illustrations throughout that match the energy and immediacy of Said’s text.
Nine years in the writing, Tyger is a fierce triumph of words and pictures destined to become a classic children’s novel alongside The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials.
Review by Ekaterina Shatalova