Tiger Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks is a book about twin tiger cubs who are hunted, captured and taken to Caesar’s palace in Imperial Rome, in the third century AD. One of the tiger cubs is taken to the Colosseum to be trained to fight. The other cub is taken to Caesar’s daughter, Aurelia, as a pet.
The beginning of the story is told from the point of view of the tigers, after which the narrative takes on a more traditional third person view point.
Although the characters in the story are fictional, Lynne Reid Banks based the book on what life was actually like in 3rd Century Rome, and as such this makes it a great book for working with in class if you’re doing the topic of the Romans.
My concerns however, are that it is rather blood thirsty and quite sad at times. It does not flinch from depicting scenes of animal cruelty and a lot of the ‘action’ sequences are set in the gladiatorial ring. If you are going to use this as a guided reading text it might be appropriate to ring fence the reading with discussions and preparation for what the children are going to read, as some of them may be upset.
The human characters are well drawn and Aurelia’s development from a spoiled princess into a caring, thoughtful human being who is able to question her father’s rule is nicely depicted. There are lots of levels at which the book can be discussed. You could look at animal welfare and cruelty, the history of the book and the characters’ emotional journeys for a start. Aurelia, as part of her growth, moves from the pagan ways of her family to becoming a secret Christian in the book, which may also prove an interesting springboard for topic work on a more religious theme.
The book is suitable for both boys and girls. I would recommend it for upper Key Stage 2, so years 5 and 6 primary (10-12). It would be suitable for younger children who are really confident readers and who are not going to be traumatised by the subject matter.