Adam has an errand to complete – taking deliveries for his parents’ business out of the Ghetto into London. Accosted by a would-be thief, he stumbles into the dump and there meets Tyger. She is his saviour – a creature not of the world; but she is also in trouble being hunted by her age-old adversary, Urizen. She needs Adam as much as he needs her. Can Adam and Zadie open the Gateway in time?
Said is an author not afraid to explore metaphysical ideas in stories aimed at a young audience. In particular he is concerned to remind all his readers that the world and power of the imagination are as important and as necessary for true humanity as thought and reason. However, his storytelling is far from a sermon. Here in a London of the future, recognisable as we follow Adam through familiar streets past recognised landmarks, the reader is drawn into a tense adventure that also highlights contemporary tensions and concerns – attitudes to others, inclusion and exclusion, our treatment of the natural world. Said is not afraid to draw on the imagination and ideas of the poet William Blake who confronted his world in his work. The most obvious reference, of course, the title Tyger, recalling one of Blake’s most famous poems, but running through the text there are many more – some subtle others more obvious, adding depth and resonance, making it more than an adventure; this is narrative that rewards rereading. While Said may be looking to the poetry and metaphysical writings of Blake for inspiration, his own style is direct, contemporary, his descriptions vivid and accessible to his readers whether the book is being read in the privacy of personal engagement or shared with a class or family. Adding to the whole imaginative experience are the illustrations by Dave McKean. This is an ideal partnership between author and illustrator. From the concise drama of the cover – both the dust jacket and the boards – through the end pages with the Thames a river of light to the page decorations, and the energy and immediacy of McKean’s images, black ink on the white page, strike home. Following Varjak Paw and Phoenix, Said and McKean have given young readers a story to remember and pass on in its imagination and inclusivity.