Tijs goes to see the tigers in India, together with his divorced mother, who behaves really badly.
We have arrived at a point where divorce is no longer a taboo in Dutch children’s literature. Usually such books are about the child, who is angry at first, but who gradually becomes used to the situation. The guilty parents do their best and everything works out okay. But what happens when that’s not the case? What about if your dad gets a new girlfriend really quickly, and your mum starts acting more and more strangely, and no one seems to be worried about you?
This is what happens to only child Tijs Kalman in Tijgereiland (Tiger Island). He feels terrible about his parents splitting up, so he decides that for now he won’t allow himself to feel anything or to think too hard about the situation, and that he’ll just wait and see what happens. He only wants one thing, and that’s to be a wild tiger. Because wild tigers spend most of their time alone, too.
His mum, who used to be a hippie, has always wanted to go to India, so she agrees when Tijs suggests that they should take a trip there. But the trip isn’t at all how Tijs had imagined. The cockroach-ridden hotel in New Delhi is a big disappointment and it turns out that his mum can’t stand Indian food. She’s not interested in the culture either and she only lets herself be dragged along on tours of temples and other sights under protest. She slips out of the hotel on her own in the middle of the night and goes off to have fun with other tourists. But everything changes when they finally head into the forests.
The author’s detailed pen-and-ink drawings play a special role in the story. They give an impression of the many photographs that Tijs takes with his new camera. At times, they even take over from the written story. In an ingenious way, they leave enough space for an ending that is as happy as the reader would like it to be.
When divorce happens, there’s no such thing as one simple truth. Tiger Island is not a self-help book, but a book about parents who don’t always know the answers, and children who have to learn to find their own way.