Sally Gardner is no stranger to the Carnegie short-list, in 2013 her novel Maggot Moon scooped up the award (press here to read our review). Now she’s back with the amazingly beautiful Young Adult picture book; Tinder, which isn’t only up for the Carnegie but for the Greenaway too. So it is more than possible that Sally (and illustrator David Roberts) could walk away with an award in each hand!
Tinder is a testament to the power of fairy-tales, and their ability to evolve to be relevant in an ever changing society, as Sally takes her inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s dark and twisted tale, ‘The Tinder Box.’
Set in the war torn regions of Germany in the 15th century Tinder is a dark and evocative tale of one solider shun and flee the bloodied battlefields of Breitenfeld betting his future on the roll of enchanted dice.
“ ‘ I wait or no one,’ said Death.‘You’ve feasted well today,’ I said. ‘What difference would my soul make?’It was then that Death and his ghostly army vanished.”
The dice guide Otto through perilous forests populated with deserters, thieves and a mysterious stranger that transforms into a wolf by removing his belt. Dicing with death Otto happens by a traveller; a boy who is not quite as he seems.
“’It’s not fair that girls should be bound up in skirts. I would rather be a boy, then I would be free to travel like you’. He took his hat off and threw it down. All about him cascaded fiery curls and a young woman stared at me with defiant eyes.”
The pair fall in love yet in a land soaked in blood and defined by violence, the pair are separated as huntsman come to collect their prey; Safire leaving Otto to follow the dice in search of her.
Otto’s journey is one that brings terror and riches as he comes upon a wooden castle, home to the powerful Lady of the Nail, who sends Otto on a quest into the bowls of the castle to fetch something from under the watchful eyes of three gigantic wolves. The prize, a tinder box, becomes entwined in Otto’s destiny as he ventures on wards to save Safire from an arranged marriage and certain death.
The Tinder box brings blessings; wealth, the command over the three gargantuan lupines and a key to his ‘happily ever-after’ yet its price, a secret, which may well fashion his demise.
Tinder is written with rhythm of a fairy tales and brings a tale that’s woven with enchantment, betrayal, fear, and hope yet brings with it an image of the atrocities of war. In Tinder Sally Gardner explores the brutalities of war and the desperation of survival in a convincing fairy tale world, drawing from werewolf mythology making the story rich and layered. The book is beautifully illustrated on every page with black, white and red drawings by David Roberts that enhance the story adding to its eerie-gothic appeal. Despite the book being highly illustrated, due to some of its subject matter it is a book for older teenagers.