Summary: Hannah and Becky are traveling down a river in Tasmania, Australia with Hannah’s parents when a storm erupts. Their boat overturns, and Hannah and Becky are left to survive in the wild. Two Tasmanian tigers are nearby, and because they’ve recently lost their pups, the tigers adopt Hannah and Becky as their own children. The two girls slowly adapt to the tigers’ ways, adopting their habits and forgetting words. It isn’t long before they become feral children, acting only as animals would.
Review: I have never read a book quite like this one. When I tried to compare it to other books I’ve read, I immediately thought of Endangered (Eliot Schrefer), which describes bonobos rather than tigers. With both books, I developed a fondness for the animals and their habits. Also, they both roped me into their beautiful settings and imagery. The only other books I could compare this to were those about abuse and neglect, as the children slowly developed animalistic ways, as abandoned children do.
The language is a bit peculiar at first, as Hannah is writing the story as an elderly woman, and she admits her language isn’t very good. I found myself slipping into the beautiful wording by the third or fourth page, and I didn’t find that it distracted my reading, and instead, it added to the experience. If I could change anything, I might alter the ending a bit, but perhaps, I am being too particular. I loved learning about the tigers’ lifestyle, and I was hooked to this survival story from the very first page. The sisterly bond that develops between Hannah and Becky is remarkable, and the story teaches themes of loyalty and companionship. Readers will be left pondering humanity and the differences between animals and humans.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Students may find the language to be a bit difficult to understand at first, so the teacher may need to provide some close readings at first. I suspect most students quickly adjust to the language and will no longer be distracted by the wording after the first few pages, and they will likely find that it adds a lot of color to the text. Teachers could have students select their favorite descriptions of the setting and imagery, as these elements are very well-developed and would serve as a great model for students. Upon completion of the text, students might research topics like Tasmania, feral children, and tigers. I was left wanting to learn more about the Tasmanian wilderness and lifestyle, and I imagine that students will also find this book to pique their curiosity.
Discussion Questions: What does it mean to be human? How do the girls lose their humanity?; What are some of the patterns of the tigers’ behavior that the girls adopt? Why is this necessary?; How do you imagine Hannah’s life today? How has this experience changed her?
We Flagged: “As the water boiled and foamed, we bounced along with me father, unable to steer the boat toward the shore. The river were so wild that all we could do were to cling on tight to the sides of the boat or each other as we were flung back and forward like puppets with no strings. The rain chucked down and we were soaked, so soggy it were like the rain were drilling through our skin into our marrow.”
“The more I looked at its black eyes, the more I seen kindness […] I knew it were saying to us, Come, I’ll take you home.”
Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The e-book (a galley) did not provide page or chapter numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.
Read This If You Loved: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick, Dog Boy by Eva Hornung, Second Nature by Alice Hoffman, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Children’s Publishing for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!