Saturday 22 June 2019

Tommy & Tiger Terry

Tommy & Tiger Terry by Darren Mort, illustrated by Niama Wessely (To Be Loved Network, HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 978 0987633415

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The publisher of this picture book is a registered charity with the aim of providing public benevolent relief to children and young adults experiencing extreme physical, psychological or emotional distress as a result of family violence, family breakdown, separation and/or divorce. The book was written by the co-founder of the To Be Loved charity who has been a Barrister in Family Law.

The book starts with Tommy, a small boy, who feels happy and safe in the sun. However, he hears his parents arguing. Then there’s an odd sentence: ‘One night, Tommy’s Mum climbed through his bedroom window using a long vine.’ There is no indication that Tommy and his parents live in a jungle, though it seems that the author uses the jungle as a metaphor for their relationship, but this is unlikely to be understood by young readers. Tommy’s mother tells him that Dad is moving to another jungle. When they separate, the boy is shared between his parents with changeovers happening in the park.

Another metaphor occurs when Tommy crawls through a playground tunnel and ends up at a beach with a tiger in a boat. Troops are waiting…

Mum has a new partner – Nicole, who has a daughter, Summer. Mum quizzes Tommy about his visits with Dad and Dad wants to know about Mum. Tommy sees a counsellor, Olivia but it’s his invisible playmate, Terry the tiger, who has his confidence. Unexpectedly, Mum and Dad separately but concurrently realise they need to handle their child kindlier so, ‘At the next changeover, something felt different.’
This book is full of good intentions, but there are too many conflicting elements, too many people. The climax of the story is not well-handled. It’s a shame a good editor wasn’t employed to manage the storytelling problems.

The illustrations are a combination of hand-drawn ink on paper and watercolour elements that are combined digitally. The result is a book with lots of bright colours and patterns.

This is a book which needs to be read – and explained – to children aged 4 to 7 years.

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