Iris and the tiger by Leanne Hall
Text, 2016. ISBN 97819252240795
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Mystery, Spain, Surrealism, Art. Arriving in Spain to stay with her great aunt, a person she has never seen before, Iris is surprised when a man in uniform picks her up from the airport. She tries to question him on the long drive home, but concludes he doesn't understand English. She has been given instructions from her parents, eager to have some of the vast wealth from Aunt Ursula, and sees herself as a spy with a list of questions to answer.
But the drive into the mansion grounds is unsettling. The forest seems dark and mysterious and full of secrets, and meeting Aunt Ursula does nothing to allay her misgivings. There follows a day of eventful happenings, she seems trapped in a surreal painting, with things not really what they seem, and things happening which should not be happening. The sunflowers around the tennis court play tennis, the statue in the park points in the direction she needs to go, she finds boots which impel her to put them on, all is mysterious and reminded me of Dali. I half expected Aunt Ursula to have a chop on her shoulder.
Meeting Jordi, the son of the caretaker changes her perspective on things. He takes her into the woods to show her some of the magical aspects of the forest, and they notice people with surveying equipment close to the property.
A magical series of events sees Iris change her mind about her parent's involvement with the future of the property and she becomes much closer to her aunt, with the prospect of returning each year. Along the way Iris learns to take more control of her own life, making friends with Jordi and the unusual girl from the next estate, and shrugging off the bullying behaviour of some whom she meets. I loved the story and its anti development perspective, while the magic of the forests and the mansion where Aunt Ursula lives is simply beguiling.