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The Time Traveller and the Tiger

The Time Traveller and the Tiger

Published: 1 Oct 2020

Hardback, 256 pages

Recommended for age 9+ and 11+

By Tania Unsworth

Published by Head of Zeus

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Face to face with the mightiest and most majestic predator in the jungle, Elsie is in awe of the tiger's beauty. She's on a mission to have the adventure of a lifetime, save the tiger and change the future. With echoes of Tom's Midnight Garden, Tania Unsworth writes about transcendent friendships and conservation in the animal kingdom.

Elsie is not looking forward to the long summer holiday with her creaky, old Uncle John. But then the unimaginable happens as Time unravels and Elsie tumbles back to 1940s India to meet her Uncle John as a young boy on a tiger hunt. Can Elsie stop him from doing what he's already told her is a wrong he can never right?

The Time Traveller and the Tiger is a multi-layered novel for 9-12 year-olds, rich in adventure, mystery, historical and conservation themes.

Tagged India and time travel

Nikki Gamble talks to Tania Unsworth about her novel The Time Traveller and the Tiger. This enchanting story conveys the majestic mystery of the tiger as powerfully as Blake's poem and challenges the casting of Shere Khan as Kipling's villain of the jungle. Tania's word weaving will leave you spell bound.

The Tigers, junior fiction

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Reviewed by Jo Bowers

The Time Traveller and the Tiger introduces us, in the first two chapters, to both time zones that this story is set in, 1946 India and 2020 England, and the main character, Elsie.  Elsie is a twelve-year-old twentieth-century girl writing stories about Kelsie Corvette who leads a remarkable life having adventures across the world. One summer holiday, when her mother gets the dates wrong, she sends Elsie to stay with her Great Uncle John and there begins Elsie’s very own adventure. Once at her uncle’s house Elsie inhales ‘the flower that catches time’ and finds herself magically time travelling to 1946 India and meeting her uncle as a young boy on a tiger hunt. What happens from here is a mission to save a tiger and change the future as Elsie tries to stop John from hunting the tiger, knowing his older self has already told her it was a wrong he can never right.

While Elsie and John try to find their way out of the forest, they meet up with John’s friend Mandeep, who she instinctively knows is connected to the mystery of the shooting of the tiger. They also discover some hunters who capture them, where they find that these are a group of hunters, terrible villains, hunters of wild animals with a trophy room filled with things made up from the animals they have killed.  Elsie, John and Mandeep set out to find out a way to stop it in a race against time.

Through the character of Mandeep, we see the antithesis of the hunters, as we see his love of the natural world and its creatures, which gives a strong message of conservation and social justice. The terrible reality of wildlife hunting and the killing of wildlife and endangered species are key themes as are friendship and racial discrimination too. This is a book rich for discussion following a class read. The short chapters also make this perfect for a class read too. It is also appealing with the humour and interaction between Elsie and John as 2020 and 1946 twelve-year-olds with misunderstandings of two people living in different decades. This is also another discussion element in the story as it also shows the different attitudes that existed towards women in the 1940s. It is also this humour that creates a balance with the sinister element of the trophy hunters.

The tiger is central throughout this story and throughout we learn so much about this majestic animal without it becoming too factual. Tania Unsworth weaves this in brilliantly so that by the end of the book, you come to love and revere this amazing creature if you didn’t already! This is made more powerful by the fact that we also see the story intermittently from the tiger’s point of view. The setting of India is equally rich, and the story transports you into this part of the world beautifully through vivid descriptions of India.

The Time Traveller and the Tiger is a book aimed at 9-12-year-olds and has so many elements and themes that it will appeal to a wide range of book reading tastes. If you like mystery, adventure, time travel, history, conservation and stories about friendships and tigers then this is a book for you

Jo Bowers is a Principal Lecturer in Primary Education (Literacy) at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She joined the university ten years ago and prior to that was a classroom teacher and English leader in a primary school for nineteen years. Jo has been editor of, and currently sits on the Editorial Board of English 4-11 for the English Association and the UKLA Publications Committee. Jo runs an Open University Reading for Pleasure Teacher Group for teachers in Cardiff and sits on various shortlisting and selection panels for children's book awards, currently the English Association Picture Book Award and the Books Council of Wales Tir na n-Og Award. Jo is a Wales representative for UKLA, reviews books for Just Imagine and writes for English 4-11. She is passionate about children's literature and is happiest when she is reading and surrounded by books.