Joe lives with his mother in Helmouth, a forgotten village crumbling on the edge of the suburbs. His days are spent trying to evade the demands of school and the taunts of the local bullies. Joe's friend, Stanny, insists that Joe must toughen up, become a survivor - and he is adamant that a weekend in the wilderness with Stanny and his Uncle Joff will do the trick.
Into Joe's unhappy world comes Hackenschmidt's Circus, and with it the strangely familiar Corinna. She tells Joe, 'In the circus there is a secret heart ' - a place of contained wildness where the barriers between the human and animal world are fluid. And indeed, Joe's dreams are already stalked by a tiger, so real that his skin and its pelt begin to feel as one...
A stunning novel from the author of the modern children's classic Skellig - winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children's Book Award. David Almond is also winner of the 2010 Hans Christian Andersen award.
As mysterious and spiritual as Almond's previous novels (Skellig; Kit's Wilderness) this initiation story explores the contrasting worlds of dreams and wakefulness, then forms an artful meshing of the two realms. Around the time a circus comes to town, Joe Maloney, a stuttering boy with poetic vision, dreams of a prowling tiger. He doesn't find the tiger under the well-worn tent of the traveling circus stationed in his "wasteland" of a town, but he does find a group of downtrodden performers, outcasts like himself. Corinna, a young trapeze artist, discovers a kindred spirit in Joe, and together they chart a mystical journey through the wilderness. Believing that Joe possesses the heart of a tiger, Corinna offers encouragement, support and understanding. Through her belief in him, Joe finds the courage to follow his own path even though he is often met with jeers. Almond fans, who relish the author's skill at creating surreal landscapes and otherworldly images, will not be disappointed by this tale, though in many ways this novel's threads are more disparate. Readers must wait it out until the final chapters to see them joined. Although most of the book is characteristically dark and intense, Joe moves steadily towards the light as, escorted by a motley crew of circus people, he travels an evocative road towards self-discovery. Ages 10-up.