Compliant, overlooked Elsie longs for the sort of exciting adventures that Kelsie Corvette, daredevil heroine of Elsie’s own secret stories, gets involved in. But when Elsie is sent to spend the school holidays with her Great Uncle John there seems little chance of such adventure, until a magical flower sends Elsie back in time to 1940s India where she meets her uncle as a twelve-year old boy about to hunt a tiger. Elsie knows that she must stop John killing the tiger, an act he has spent the rest of his life regretting. Elsie, John and Mandeep, an Indian boy who loves nature and wants to protect animals, find themselves lost in the jungle on a mission to save the tiger from a dangerous hunter.
This is a beautifully written and thought-provoking mix of adventure, time travel and historical story with strong, engaging characters and themes of friendship, righting wrongs, and conservation. Echoes of classic children’s books, such as The Jungle Book, The Secret Garden and Tom’s Midnight Garden, are successfully blended in with contemporary takes on protecting the natural world, social justice, and roles for girls. The narrative is split between Elsie, Mandeep and the tiger itself and the story is full of fast-paced action and atmospheric description of the natural world, keeping readers’ attention throughout. Elsie’s attempts to convince John that she is from the future are very amusing and convey the differences between modern values and those of colonial India in a light-hearted but thoughtful way. The resolutions for all characters, and for the tiger, are very satisfying and make this a title to recommend to readers who will enjoy a mix of adventure, fantasy, and conservation.