McCALLUM, Mary Dappled Annie and the Tigrish Gecko Press, 2014 140pp NZ$19.99 pbk ISBN 9781877579912
There are faces etched in the hedge that borders the cottage home with the open spaces of the coastal landscape. In the distance, on the border of sea and land, is the lighthouse and Annie’s father is the keeper. These hedging faces and voices are barely perceptible to most of us, but when heard, they give voice to nature. Indeed, the real and the fantastic are here interwoven in a deeply mystical eco-utopian story whereby, for those gifted to hear, smell, see and feel the spirit beyond the material, are the people that can experience the fullness of nature. Annie is so gifted and slowly she becomes aware of the uncanny, such as the tigrish, which is a tiger-like animal that is able to fly. This story is about crossing the boundaries of the known and the possible. The tigrish is the paternal (almost spiritual) being at its purist: the all-loving strong leader who acts selflessly for the love of the Other; be it a small nest of fledging fantails that have been swept away by the wind, or Annie, who fears that her father is in danger when he doesn’t return from his labours as the lighthouse keeper and must face, with her younger brother Robbie, the danger of rescue in failing light. The lighthouse here is broken because of an earthquake and, to function properly, needs rescue and repair. This comes from the cooperation of Annie and the tigrish; the natural and the supernatural, if you will.
Recommended for children aged between 7-10 by the publisher, it may be that younger children will simply absorb the idea of fantasy as a story of imaginative possibilities; perhaps it is the older reader that might want ‘make sense’ of the story through the lenses of critical thinking. Mind you, perhaps it is the critical reviewer who mostly needs to simply read ‘in the moment’! JMcK