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Book Review: The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair by Hannah Foley (Zephyr Books)

Illustrated by Lucy Rose

For ages 9+

*[Ad-review copy]

This is a powerful, sensitively and beautifully written middle grade story. If the stunning cover illustration by Lucy Rose hasn’t already intrigued you, let me tell you more, because I predict this will be one of the 2023 middle grade books to watch.

About the book

Taking inspiration from the Victorian era of real-life female hero Mary Anning and what we now know of her contribution to science from her home along the Jurassic coast of Devon; author, Foley, has imagined one of her greatest fans in Emma Linden, a 12 year old living in London who holidays at their family cottage in Devon by the sea during Summers. Collating all that feminists abhor about this age - no rights for women whether it is education, inheritance, medical care, professional careers, Emma has also been labelled with a mysterious mental illness that means she is kept out of sight, ‘safely’ away from society.

It might seem like a straight forward plot, but heck no it isn’t, and you’re going to love that actually as you read the book you are time-shifted between 1884 and 2023. Transported between the lives of Emma Linden and her direct descendant, Rosie Linden, living in Devon by the sea, yet, unlike Emma, she’s living more than one life. We meet her after she has had an episode in another world, as a tiger, protecting, keeping everyone safe. She suddenly comes back to reality, bewildered, confused in the middle of town, and lucky for her her classmate Jude is passing by.

This is an incredible story with twists and turns, an ancient Indian mystery of humans changing into tigers that seems to have penetrated the Linden blood line. Reading of the ‘condition’ gradually taking hold of characters in the late 1800s and the early 2000s; following their journeys in real time is incredibly eye-opening. Foley’s writing style is incredibly ‘romantic’ in the way it pulls you into the narrative and you feel the injustice, grief, shock, anxiety, relief, happiness, love and joy, not always necessarily in this order.

By passing down clues through time between Emma and her grandchildren, eventually Rosie and Jude (not without risk) solve the mystery of what happened to the Linden family all those years ago.

Readers will encounter the reality of children living with psychosis related mental illness, how they struggle to cope and come to terms with a diagnosis and lead a ‘normal’ life. There are compassionate medical characters and details of care plans are included in the storyline, reflecting the obvious comparison to the appalling Victorian asylum treatments that Emma’s family fear for her.

This is a bold, heart-felt and unforgettable story. We must love and protect the tigers in our lives, and keep them safe when they are most vulnerable. It’d make an amazing classroom book by the way, teachers!

About the creators

Hannah Foley (author)

Lucy Rose (illustrator)

Key themes

Mary Anning

Victorian vs modern day treatment of mental illness and women


Mental illness



Mystery solving

Grab a copy

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Publication date: 2 February 2023

Format: Paperback

*my review copy was provided by the publisher

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