The Tigerboy (Faber Children's Classics) by Ted Hughes

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The Tigerboy (Faber Children's Classics) by Ted Hughes

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: An ordinary boy who knows, somehow, that he is different, this is a magical and strange short story.
Buy? maybe Borrow? yes
Pages: 64 Date: November 2016
Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571320622

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This is a small, but beautifully formed book. Containing just one short story it is perhaps over a little quickly, considering the price of the book, but it is a really lovely object to own. It is the story of a perfectly normal little boy, with the very ordinary name of Fred. Fred, however, knows that there is something different about him, and that he is special. Everything about his life is unremarkable until one night his foot starts to itch and he finds himself turning into a tiger!

This story has been described as Metamorphosis for children, which I think is quite apt. It is the story of a transformation, but it also has that very normal, every-day, nothing unusual going on here feel that Metamorphosis has too. The transformations happen to Fred during the night, so it is unclear as to whether he actually is changing, or whether he is dreaming. There are some interesting moments in school that look at the power of a child's imagination too, as Fred manages to understand his lessons by imagining that he is a genius inventor, or an explorer. It is an intriguing story, and an unsettling one too, since you are never quite sure just what is going on.

My problem with this book, however, is the ending. If you're happy to endure an abrupt stop to the story, without any kind of explanation whatsoever (and I know many grown-ups and children are!) then you'll be just fine. I'm pretty sure, however, that my daughter will march downstairs once I give this to her and declare that she needs to write to the author (as she frequently does whenever she's unhappy with the resolution of a story!) For myself, I shut the book with a snap, and I felt that the shock of an un-ending spoiled, for me, all the good writing that preceded it! The book is very engaging, easy to read and interesting to think about, but oh, how frustrating that ending is! I went back and checked the beginning, and the end, to see if there was an editorial note about this being an unfinished work by Hughes!

Still, there are some glorious illustrations by Joe McLaren that really add to the mood of the story and help this be such a lovely creation. I have mixed feelings about Hughes, having always been a Plath fan, but he does have great skill and style when writing. It's just a shame that he chose to leave this story in this way. As an object of bookshelf delight, it's worth buying, but personally I feel that story-wise you should probably just get it from the library first and see how you feel.

Further reading suggestion: Another Hughes classic, that is a really superb story: The Iron Man. From the same stable, have a look at The Children of Green Knowe and The River at Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston.

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Buy The Tigerboy (Faber Children's Classics) by Ted Hughes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tigerboy (Faber Children's Classics) by Ted Hughes at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Tigerboy (Faber Children's Classics) by Ted Hughes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tigerboy (Faber Children's Classics) by Ted Hughes at


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