Music for Tigers
Pajama Press, 2021
192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99
“The first sound I hear in the forest at the bottom of the world is Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. There’s a movement in the violin concerto that’s meant to mimic the sound of birds. When I step off the bus in the Tarkine bush, that’s exactly what I hear. An orchestra of birdsong descends like musical rain from the Tasmanian treetops.”
Shipped halfway around the world from Toronto to Tasmania to spend the summer with her mother’s eccentric Australian relatives, middle schooler and passionate violinist Louisa is prepared to be resentful. All she wants to be is a violinist, not a biologist like her mother but her mother has discovered that the family-run sanctuary is about to be destroyed and thinks Louisa needs to know more about her heritage.
Life at the family’s remote camp in the Tasmanian rainforest is intriguing, to say the least. There are pig-footed bandicoots, scary spiders, weird noises and odours in the night, and a quirky boy named Colin who cooks the most amazing meals. Not the least strange is her Uncle Ruff, with his unusual pet and veiled hints about something named Convict Rock.
Finally, when Uncle Ruff gives Louisa her great-grandmother’s diary, she learns the truth: Convict Rock is a sanctuary established by her great-grandmother Eleanor-a sanctuary for Tasmanian tigers, Australia’s huge marsupials that were famously hunted into extinction almost a hundred years ago. Or so the world believes. Hidden in the rainforest at Convict Rock, one tiger remains. But now the sanctuary is threatened by a mining operation, and the last Tasmanian tiger must be lured deeper into the forest. The problem is, not since her great-grandmother has a member of the family been able to earn the shy tigers’ trust.
As the summer progresses, Louisa forges unexpected connections with Colin a young lad on the autism spectrum; with the forest; and-through Eleanor’s journal-with her great-grandmother. She begins to suspect the key to saving the tiger is her very own music. But will her plan work? Or will the enigmatic Tasmanian tiger disappear once again, this time forever?
This is an intriguing read for independent readers who are looking for something different, and something that will stay with them long after the last page is read. The Tasmanian Tiger remains an mysterious, elusive creature which fascinates because of the sporadic “sightings” and suggestions that it may not have become extinct when the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936. Acknowledging the expertise of the land’s traditional owners, it is one that has the preservation of the environment at heart, but also the changing nature of people and families as they learn more about who they are.
Written for readers at the upper age limit of this blog, I, as an adult, was engrossed and I could hear myself reading it to a class of entranced listeners.