Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman
Illus. by Divya Srinivasan. Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408879221.
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Themes: India, Tigers, Fable, Friendship, Difference. The beautiful princess who lives in a country far away is blind with pearls for eyes. But what concerns her parents, the Rajah and Rani is the fact that she cannot speak. They offer a room in their palace, the deeds to a stunted grove of mango trees, a picture of an old aunt who always has a lot to say and a parrot to anyone who can make their child speak. But nobody succeeds. Eventually a tiger comes along offering to help Cinnamon speak. After some disquiet the family and the staff leave the palace to the girl and the tiger.
He uses feelings to encourage her to speak, succeeding where all others have failed. She runs her hands through his soft fur, feels pain when he scratches her, fear when he roars and love when he licks her hand and face. Moved, she speaks. Her parents are very happy and want to know why she has not spoken before but she can only say that she had nothing to talk about, and then surprises them all by saying what she is going to do next.
A wonderful fable, concentrating on relationships within a family, where the child Cinnamon cannot speak. The parents offer a flawed reward to anyone who can help, but the prize claimed by the tiger takes their child from them.
Wonderfully apt illustrations by Texan artist, Srinivasan, complement Gaiman's lively text, full of allusions to tigers and their behaviours. Brimming with wit and humour, the story will be read and reread by those who love to laugh out loud, while their eyes will be drawn to the detail in the background of each page, showing life in an Indian palace, as well as the flora and fauna outside.
The aunt's negative comments are most amusing as is her end, while the parents with their half-hearted attempts at helping Cinnamon speak do not deserve any pity when left in their sumptuous palace without their daughter. The themes of possessions over a child, of an inability to help their disabled daughter, of finding love in the most unusual of places will sing to the book's readers, and Gaiman again gives a story that is not quite what is expected, a story at odds with the usual, a story that sings with difference.