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Tiger by the Tail

by Eric Walters

Eric Walters’ new YA novel, Tiger by the Tail, unfortunately lacks the depth of his recent one, War of the Eagles. In this adventure story, Sarah and Nicholas, who have moved to their grandmother’s farm, encounter McCurdy, a reclusive old animal trainer. Sarah, the know-it-all older sister, and Nicholas, the cheeky younger brother, are startled to discover that McCurdy keeps a tiger named Buddha, a Coke-swigging chimp called Calvin, a cheetah, and other exotic animals on his farm. The main tension in the story happens when older teens appear on the scene, and McCurdy tries to scare them off his property. Police cars arrive with sirens wailing, and Sarah’s mother, who is a lawyer, changes sides abruptly to help McCurdy keep his animals.

However, the novel never progresses far beyond the level of a storyboard: the action is sketched out but not filled in. Unlike War of the Eagles, there is little sense of place. The farm is curiously anonymous. An additional dimension could have been added to the story if McCurdy’s memories of Sarah’s grandmother had given the reader a feeling for the community. His affectionate picture of her as a young woman is well delineated, but generally the characterizations are thin, verging on stereotypical. Sarah is depicted as the squeamish girl, frightened of the animals, and her brother as the intrepid explorer. The only characters who merit physical descriptions are McCurdy and the children’s absent father. Ultimately, this novel needed more editing and plot development, since fast action does not redeem a slight story.