Book review: Music for Tigers, by Michelle Kadarusman

Kadarusman, Michelle. Music for Tigers. “Prepublication advance reading copy.” Pajama Press, publication date April 28, 2020. [192 pages.] $17.95. ISBN 97817280543. Ages 8-12. P7Q9

Thylacines–Tasmanian tigers–are large, extinct, dog-like marsupial predators, once found across Australia, last seen on the island of Tasmania almost a century ago.  Like the North American Sasquatch, there are occasional sightings, with grainy video or photographs, but no credible evidence of living specimens has been found.  With Louisa’s scientist parents off to study endangered amphibians in the Ontario wetlands for the summer, middle-school violinist Louisa has to  has to spend her summer with her uncle in the Tasmanian rainforest.  Bush conditions—scary spiders and venemous snakes, kerosene lamps and inconsistent electricity, lack of internet—mean that Louisa cannot concentrate solely on practicing her violin for the upcoming auditions and the camp’s isolation throws her into the company of Colin, a boy on the autism spectrum.  Then there is the mystery of the large animal that seems to be stalking the camp, especially once Louisa begins practicing violin.  Her grandmother’s journal gives her the clue that the large animal might be a thylacine, descended from animals brought to the camp to protect them from encroaching loggers and miners at the turn of the 20th century.

Verdict: Students who enjoy  nature stories, especially those who are interested in cryptid species, will enjoy this book.  The idea that a large extinct predator species might actually be found is exciting.  I really liked the ways that Louisa and Colin interacted with each other, Colin sharing his knowledge of the bush and Louisa finding a way to demonstrate facial cues  to help Colin identify emotions.  This character and setting driven plot appeals on many levels and introduces a setting not well represented in children’s books in the United States.  I recommend it for middle school and public libraries.

February 2020 review by Jane Cothron.

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