You’ve gotta love a catchy book title. A little bit of alliteration (The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth), perhaps a spot of intrigue (The Black North), maybe even some humour (Pants Are Everything, when you’re definitely not a nudist). And it was the title of Suzi Moore’s latest book for 9+ years that caught Moontrug’s attention first: Tiger Moth. In seconds, it had conjured up images of fighter planes, butterflies, a powerful tiger charging through the jungle, a tiny, fragile moth fluttering in the moonlight… And the way Moore integrates ‘Tiger Moth’ into the story is totally gorgeous.
Ever since Alice was adopted, Culver Manor, with its overgrown garden has been the one place she feels safe. Then Alice’s parents tell her they’re having a baby and her world turns upside down. Will they loved their real baby more than her? Meanwhile, Zack has everything he could want. A loving family, lots of friends and a brilliant dog for a best friend. But when tragedy strikes, Zack is ripped from the life he loves and forced to move with his mum to a tiny cottage by the sea. Then Zack meets Alice, and together they realise that when life seems less than perfect, a new friend might be all you need to find your way home.
Alice is a wonderful character and from the opening lines of the book you’re drawn right inside her head: ‘I’m not like you. I’m not like everyone else. I wasn’t born. I was chosen.’ Alice is small, and as she sees it, seemingly insignificant – but her energy and bravery dance all over the page. Her feelings at the arrival of her baby sister are brilliantly evoked, as is her sense of curiosity and adventure as she discovers Culver Cove. Moontrug loved the way she isn’t interested in moping around on an iPad inside but is hunting down old maps and discovering secret doors… And her ‘funny animal walks’ are awesome – Moontrug is planning to try out the ‘chicken shark’ this week. Zack is similarly great – very funny (like when he talks about Otter’s ‘world-famous stink-bomb farts’ and keeps eating Alice’s picnic lunches) but his anger and sorrow at losing his father is also painstakingly real. In fact, Moontrug cried when Zack finally let his grief clatter down. The setting is so alive you can almost smell the rush of salty air and see the seals slope from the rocks into the glittering sea. Culver Cove is exactly the kind of place the Famous Five would have explored: full of possibility and secrets. The moonlit swim is awesome and Moontrug is already planning one next week on the Isle of Skye, up in Scotland. Tiger Moth is a gorgeous book which perfectly captures both the sense of loss and alienation that all too often creeps into life, but also the thirst for adventure and friendship that drives childhood forward.