Music for Tigers Reviews

Kirkus Reviews ★ Starred Review

Cover: Music for Tigers Author: Michelle Kadarusman Publisher: Pajama Press“Kadarusman masterfully creates a lush, magical world where issues associated with conservation, neurodiversity, and history intersect in surprising and authentic ways….Crucially, the author acknowledges the original, Indigenous inhabitants of the land as experts, something rarely seen in books about environmental degradation. Louisa’s narratorial voice strikes the right balance of curiosity, timidity, and growing confidence, and her character’s transformation feels both incredibly natural and incredibly rewarding to behold.

A beautiful conservation story told in a rich setting and peopled with memorable characters.”

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Shelf Awareness ★ Starred Review

“The magic and mystery of the Tasmanian rain forest take center stage in Michelle Kadarusman’s novel about a middle-grade Canadian girl finding herself—and a species believed to be extinct—in the wilds of Australia. Incorporating themes of diversity and environmental preservation into her adventure, Kadarusman (Girl of the Southern Sea) creates a story straight out of adolescent daydreams….

As Louisa discovers a new, exciting side of herself, Kadarusman guides readers through the majestic intricacies of a remote corner of Australia. She pays homage to the Australian Aborigines, granting deep respect to their role as caretakers of the Tasmanian rain forest, and paints her characters as respectfully and authentically as the setting. The friendship that evolves between Louisa and Colin, who is on the autism spectrum, adds a layer of complexity to Louisa’s character as well as to the plot itself. Compassionate and endearing, Music for Tigers hits all the right notes.”
—Jen Forbus, freelancer

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Foreword Reviews ★ Starred Review

“The wilds of Tasmania are described with tangible reverence, making clear the drive which the characters have for preserving it….Descriptions of the ‘pastel-blue sky’ and twinkling constellations are enchanting, while Louisa’s growing attention to the natural beauty around her mirrors her increasing commitment to the camp and its mission….

A stirring tale that will inspire young readers to take to heart our collective responsibility as stewards of the planet, Music for Tigers is a coming-of-age story with a conservation twist.”
—Danielle Ballantyne

Read the full review in the May/June 2020 issue of Foreword Reviews

Quill & Quire ★ Starred Review

“In her third outstanding middle-grade novel – after Theory of Hummingbirds and Girl of the Southern Sea – Kadarusman continues to be a clear, insightful, and humourous guide to unfamiliar experiences and settings, and in this case species. She’s unearthed the fascinating history of an extinct animal and entwined it with a heartfelt story of a dedicated family whose good deeds have run up against the ever-encroaching, commerce-driven modern world. The dire ecological realities are spelled out by a secondary character, who gives eco-tours and discusses the ways we can protect and respect the rainforest and its original inhabitants, both human and animal.

But Kadarusman is not out to tell a didactic activist story. She’s concerned with character development: how Louisa shifts from her one-track musical mindedness to being engaged with the unique and passionate work that’s so meaningful to those around her, and how Ruff, a dedicated and accomplished vet, eventually comes to understand there’s more to life than marsupials. With a light touch, Kadarusman presents a family coming to an end of a chapter and instead of fighting the inevitable, using this last bit of time to strengthen their connections to one another before starting fresh.”

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Washington Post KidsPost

“Imagine wanting to focus on a favorite pastime during your middle-school summer vacation, but instead you are sent 10,000 miles away from home….

Throughout Music for Tigers, Kadarusman provides interesting information about Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest, its original human inhabitants and the variety of wildlife that has lived there, before and after European settlers destroyed a way of life. Absorbing what she can of this world, Louisa faces challenges and lets new experiences change her. As she says at one point, “I hardly recognize myself. And I like it.”

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“Author Michelle Kadarusman deftly incorporates Australian history into this middle-grade book that reads like a love letter to the unique flora and fauna of the Tasmanian Tarkine. The author’s note at the end gives more historical information about the Tasmanian tiger and efforts to preserve other endangered species. Music for Tigers is perfect for young readers interested in ecology and preservation.”
—Bridget Ward

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School Library Journal

“This is a well-told and timely story, which gently but firmly addresses topics such as environmental impact, endangered species, neurodiversity, friendship, bullying, and being your best self….short chapters and narrative style make a fantastic amount of information highly accessible.

VERDICT A solid choice for middle grade collections providing a balanced and comprehensible voice to the environmental discussion for young people.”
—Emily Beasley, Omaha Public School

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“Michelle Kadarusman engages young readers with a carefully laid trail of compelling tidbits. What is a pig-footed bandicoot? Is the Tasmanian tiger really exinct or merely elusive? Young naturalists will possibly be even more eager than Louisa to delve into the pages of her great grandmother’s journal. And readers whose interests usually lie elsewhere than ecology and conservation will find themselves, like Louisa, carried along on a current of intrigue. Louisa’s friendship with Colin provides a welcome opportunity to cultivate some understanding of both the gifts and struggles of those on the autism spectrum. This is a book about the wonders of nature, the importance of conservation supported by indigenous connections to the land, and the need for persistence in the face of adversity.”
—Ildiko Sumegi

Read the full review on page 33 of the Fall 2020 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

Winnipeg Free Press

“In Music for Tigers Toronto writer Michelle Kadarusman suggests how a single tiger might have survived, and created an incredible experience for a girl from Canada….Kadarusman grew up in Australia and undoubtedly has heard rumours of modern-day sightings of this elusive creature. It makes for a good story in an unusual setting. Written for readers 8-12 years of age, especially animal lovers.”

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Oregon Coast Youth Book Preview Center

“Verdict: Students who enjoy nature stories, especially those who are interested in cryptid species, will enjoy this book. The idea that a large extinct predator species might actually be found is exciting….This character and setting driven plot appeals on many levels and introduces a setting not well represented in children’s books in the United States. I recommend it for middle school and public libraries.”
—Jane Cothron

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CM Magazine

Music for Tigers seamlessly blends several themes together to create a unique story. The most obvious theme of wildlife conservation is beautifully executed with important messages that we, as humans, can often do more harm than good, even when we try to help….

Another important theme in the novel is that of mental health and personal growth. Both Louisa and Colin are neurodivergent children who have to deal with real life implications of their mental health….

Kadarusman’s novel also provides an uncommon but insightful blending of science and art. Louisa feels at the beginning of the novel that her parents wish she was more interested in biology like them. She feels that they can’t understand her passion for her music because the two things are polar opposites. However, she finds through Eleanor’s journals that the two things can be used together for a very good purpose. Louisa learns that her music can be used along with her parents’ biology to help the animals she’s come to love.

Michelle Kadarusman’s, Music for Tigers is a fun, engaging read for middle grade children, one that will appeal to many different readers because of its diverse themes and subjects. Louisa’s relationships with Colin and Rufus are delightful to read, and the novel covers important topics with delicacy and grace. Music for Tigers is a heartwarming story of personal growth and friendship that will draw readers in with its charm.

Highly Recommended.”
—Deanna Feuer is an English Literature graduate from the University of the Fraser Valley. She lives in Langley British Columbia.

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The White Ravens

“In her latest middle grade novel, »Music for Tigers«, young Louisa is shipped from Canada to Tasmania to spend her summer holidays at a remote camp in the rainforest. Although the ambitious violinist is initially unenthusiastic about the prospect of battling creepy crawlies with only her weirdo maternal uncle as company, she soon becomes fascinated by her family’s history while reading parts of her great-grandmother Eleanor’s diary. If there really is a Tasmanian tiger still alive and roaming around the sanctuary Eleanor started, Louisa is determined to save this supposedly extinct species. Conjuring up a lush rainforest-y world that radiates an almost magical atmosphere, the author successfully combines historical facts with an engaging tale about topical issues, such as the threat to the Australian flora and fauna by mining and logging companies.”

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YA Books Central

“A vividly descriptive Middle-Grade work with an ecological focus—enriched by elements of music, friendship, and atypical neurology….

Louisa and Colin’s friendship is both a prominent element and a highlight–leading to noteworthy character growth for each. Louisa is largely adaptive to Colin’s quirks from the get-go (thanks in part to his mother’s explanation of his behaviors and difficulties), and at one point even assists him in interpreting the facial expressions and intentions of some of his more snide classmates. And while Colin’s savantism stands as a commonly known possible aspect of being on the autism spectrum, his movement coping for agitation/overstimulation is less so.

I would readily recommend this for young contemporary fiction and nature lovers. There’s some great potential here for building empathy, educating on species extinction, and expanding familiarity with neurological diversity—all while steeping readers in the atmosphere of an incredibly unique biome.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature. (Cicero)

There is art within the pages of Music for Tigers. It’s the art that comes from seeing and hearing and knowing a place and its people. Just as she did in her earlier books, The Theory of Hummingbirds (2017) and Girl of the Southern Sea (2019), Michelle Kadarusman delivers us with her art, this time to the island of Tasmania, a land rich with stories, of history, of landscape and of life….

Music for Tigers is a statement, albeit a songful one, of our impact on the natural world for our own purposes, destroying critical habitats and species. It implores us to step up and put conservation and preservation measures in place before it’s too late, when even the music of our efforts won’t be enough to save ecosystems and their species.

With Music for Tigers, Michelle Kadarusman reminds us, again, that being human requires much of us but the dividends from benevolence to others, human and not, may be unforeseen but boundless.”

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Elizabeth CookCanLit for LittleCanadians guest reviewer

“As an avid traveller, I love stories that help me relive fabulous trips I have taken in the past. While I never made it all the way to Tasmania when adventuring around Australia, where Michelle Kadarusman’s Music For Tigers takes place, I felt as though I had. Her description of the Tasmanian rainforest is breathtaking. Michelle Kadarusman weaves her words in such a way that makes the world down under come alive. The best way I can describe it is that she not only created a beautiful story, it felt like she created a melody with her words. I could feel the rhythm and cadence of the eucalyptus trees and all of the animals contained on the island of Tasmania….

Michelle Kadarusman’s Music For Tigers is a beautiful novel that is a captivating read. It weaves in themes of animal stewardship, environmental protection, family, and friendship into one heartwarming book. This novel would be an excellent read for adults as well as students in Grades 4 and up. If you love protecting animals in their natural environment, you will love this book…just be sure to watch out for those bunyips!”
—Elizabeth Cook is a teacher-librarian in the Halton District School Board. She is an avid reader and fan of Canadian literature.

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Christina Ammirati

“This captivating story is full of heart, hope, music, and science. Louisa’s many new relationships evolve so beautifully and I especially adored her interactions with Colin, who has autism spectrum disorder. Kirkus starred reviewed, MUSIC FOR TIGERS is a special coming-of-age story that pays homage to Tasmanian aboriginal people, nature, and the magnificent beings with whom we share the earth.”

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Book Gaga

“Kadarusman weaves beautifully themes and issues such as environmental fragility and protection, understanding and respecting neurodiversity differences, reverence for family and history and more into an engaging and at times suspenseful storyline….Michelle Kadarusman orchestrates it all with compassion and storytelling verve. Music For Tigers is uniquely good and genuine, truly ‘fair dinkum’…!”

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Homeschool by the Beach

“There is nothing better than getting so entranced by a book that you are able to finish it in one day. Music For Tigers completely captivated me from the very first pages. It was full of lovely and diverse characters, adventure, mystery, messages of conservation, and so much heart! A truly beautiful combination!…

I absolutely adored this book. Author Michelle Kadarusman is a beautiful storyteller. This was the first book I have read of hers and I am eager to read more. She transported me to the wilds of Tasmania…I could almost see the ginormous spiders!! I love that she tackled so many important topics in the pages of this book. Topics like species extinction, environmentalism, neurodiversity, and anxiety are woven beautifully throughout the pages.

The relationships in the story were so beautiful. Being able to watch the bond grown between Louisa and Uncle Ruff was so heartwarming. I also loved seeing such a special friendship build between Louisa and Colin. It is such a breath of fresh air to read a book with characters that are so relatable and so real. I also absolutely loved the strong message of conservationism!”

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Kids’ Book Review

“I enjoyed this book so much. Michelle Kadarusman has captured the essence and detail of the Australian bush in every word and detail of the story. Her magnificent writing makes it easy to imagine the imagery of the Talkine rainforests. Once you start to read her book you can not stop.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in music or wildlife, especially endangered and extinct animals such as the Tasmanian Tigers. I was disappointed when I finished the book because I wanted to continue reading about Louisa’s exceptional journey in the Talkine rainforests. I recommend this book for ages 9 and up.”

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Blue Fairy Tales

“First off, I love reading home grown stories. There are never enough books set in Australia and this is something that I adore.

Secondly, for such a short, middle grade book, I love the depth and the meanings that you stumble across. Nature, preserving wildlife and family are the key ingredients across the book that are woven together in short chapters.”

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Blue Wolf Reviews

“Once again Michelle Kadarusman has crafted an epic story, Music for Tigers around conservation, acceptance and friendship set in a remote bush camp in the Tasmanian rain-forest, the Tarkine, a place of great beauty and mystery.

Kadarusman has woven a story with beautiful use of language that captivates from the first sentence, as the wording immediately brings to the mind and sense, the smell and rich beauty of the Tasmanian bush along with the overwhelming awe it inspires when first discovered. Music for Tigers contains something very special: the magic of a story well told, that not only demands to be read from cover to cover, but ensures the gently presented messages wrapped within the text remain in the memory for a long time.”

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“I’ve come to the point in my life were I’m transitioning into books intended for older individuals and haven’t been interested in many middle grade, however, one thing for sure is that no matter how old I am, I will pick a Michelle Kadarusman’s books.

Her style of writing and her unique three dimensional characters allowed the plot to flow effortlessly. I highly recommend picking up any of the author’s other books. All her books open a great conversation.”

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The Weekend Australian

“In Music for Tigers, Australian-Indonesian author Michelle Kadarusman transplants violinist Louisa from Toronto into the Tarkine in the northwest Tasmanian wilderness. As soon as she arrives her musician’s senses are attuned to the currawongs who seem to be singing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Her Uncle Ruff runs a camp that is a haven for endangered species that have lost habitats to land clearing and are threatened by invasive predators. It is to be bulldozed to make an access road to the tin and iron ore mines. Legendary Convict Rock, a landmass in the river, will be dynamited to become a bridge.

Louisa reads her great-grandmother Eleanor’s journal about her life in the bush in the 1930s and 40s. Eleanor established the camp for wildlife at risk and found a secret sanctuary on Convict Rock for the Tasmanian tigers that were thought to be extinct.

Eleanor and Louisa share a talent for music and it is Lou’s violin playing that lures the last thylacine in the area to her.

Music for Tigers explores Lou’s new friendship with neurodivergent Colin as well as Lou’s own performance anxiety.

It has important conservation themes set in a real landscape that is almost magical in its dense lushness and beauty. It is told as a contemporary mystery using sensory, artistic images inspired by nature. The thylacine becomes a symbol of saving the lost in this moving, uplifting tale.”

A Mighty Girl

“As the summer goes on, Louisa discovers she feels at home in the forest — and she begins to suspect that her violin may be the key to teaching the tiger to trust her. This stunning story of conservation, hope, and individuality will make readers dream of what may lie hidden in the untouched wilderness.”

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