Juliette Green reviews A Tiger’s Message by Martin D Hill & Marisa Morgan (illustrator)
A Tiger’s Message is a beautifully colourful book that helps children learn about the wildlife of tropical rainforests, the threats that they face, and what people can do to help. At first glance, it appears to be a picture book aimed at Key Stage 1 children, but the information and concepts contained within make it also suitable to read and discuss with pupils in Key Stage 2. While it’s not a ‘big book’, the large size and big, clear images make it ideal for sharing with a class; or children would enjoy leafing through the pages themselves.
The book begins with a visit by Indy the Sumatran tiger and her keeper to Emma’s school – an opening that prompted quite a lot of discussion of the practicalities (and impossibilities) of this when I read the book to a group of children! The first of several facts is given – that there are now only between 350 and 400 Sumatran tigers left (“There are more children in this school than there are Sumatran tigers in the wild”).
Emma finds herself transported to the dense rainforest of Sumatra. The illustrator, Marisa Morgan, helps to draw the reader into this environment by adding increasing amounts of green to each page. Emma sees a fleeting flash of orange between the leaves and then hears a deep purr… Now, I thought that tigers couldn’t purr – don’t they ‘chuff’ when happy? – but the author is a big cat expert, so I’ll take his word for it! Emma follows the purring tiger deeper into the forest. However, the purr soon turns into a loud roar – the noise of machines. The green of the pages changes abruptly to grey, as the illustrations show bulldozers, men with chainsaws, fallen trunks and rows of broken tree stumps. The most affecting image is of an orangutan clinging forlornly to a broken branch, which the children I was reading with found incredibly moving.
Emma snaps out of her daydream and explains to the class that humans are destroying the rainforest, leaving nowhere for the wildlife to live. The following pages contain information about why rainforests are also important to humans, by providing oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide and containing plants with medicinal properties. Emma’s teacher then tells the children about palm oil – what it’s used in and the impacts that its growth has on tropical rainforests. It was really good to see that the message isn’t just to completely avoid palm oil, but that we can choose products that use “sustainable, wildlife friendly palm oils”. (The book cover shows the logo of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.)
This book contains a positive message about what children in the UK can do to help wildlife in far-distant Sumatra, whilst not shying away from the cold, hard facts. For example, there are two pages towards the end that show photographs, rather than illustrations, of deforestation in Sumatra and central Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo).
Remember, as Emma tells her mother at the end of the story: “the rainforests belong to all of us, animals and humans too.”
Hill, M.D., illustrated by Morgan, M. (2019). A Tiger’s Message. Bexleyheath: Indy Publishing. ISBN: 978-0-9928285-3-0. Paperback, 30 pages. £6.99. Available from indypublishing.co.uk