Published by: Head of Zeus Books, 2nd February 2023
Told via a dual narrative across two time zones, this new middle grade release from Hannah Foley is a powerful read. Set on the stunning Jurassic coastline, with references to Mary Anning, it offers a real but hopeful insight into mental health, families and friendships...
1884: Emma Linden has spent her life isolated in the attic for fear of aggravating her illness if she ventures into the outside world. But when her beloved brother, James, becomes obsessed with a tiger at the museum, Emma starts to realise that he is the one who needs help.
2023: When Jude finds Rosie Linden after she's been missing for four days, he realises she is in urgent need of help. As he helps her towards recovery, a delicate friendship blooms. Can Jude help Rosie uncover the secrets of her past?
This stunning front cover by Lucy Rose Illustration promises great things from the off, although I admit that as someone who reads for escape and whose personal preference is light-hearted, funny or fantastical stories, I was slightly nervous to start reading. I needn't have been. This is an easily accessible book, perfect for KS2 and KS3 readers, which draws you from the very first page. Although the story explores topics of a serious nature, Hannah Foley handles them with knowledge, experience and a beautifully light touch. The characters are instantly loveable - I particularly loved James and Jude - and the reader is swept up by the strong bonds that tie them together.
The novel is educational and enthralling both at the same time. Through the two narratives, the author raises awareness of mental health issues and how attitudes and treatments have changed over the years. She also champions our invaluable keyworkers through Alice, the paramedic, and the power of having friends and family to care, nurture and support those struggling with their mental health (everyone needs a Jude and a Dillis). Finally, Hannah Foley highlights the importance of nature when sustaining and recovering our mental health; the Jurassic coast and Kersbrook House feel like characters in their own right and the constant reference to the woods, fossils and creativity brings a fresh and vivid vitality to the story.
If that isn't enough to excite readers, there's more. A very real and compelling baddie in Malcolm Greep, a tragic accident and a snowy rescue. Most of all though, I loved the analogy of the tiger, which was so cleverly and subtly written, readers need to experience it for themselves. Hannah Foley then leaves us with the lasting and hopeful message, again gleaned through the dual narrative, that as a society we are moving away from ignorance and stigmatisation and treating people who struggle with their mental health as wonderful human beings who deserve to be loved, cared for and understood.
A big thanks to Netgalley and Head of Zeus Books for allowing me a review copy. The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair is released next week, 2nd February 2023.