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The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
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The Tiger Rising (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Kate DiCamillo

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Title:The Tiger Rising
Authors:Kate DiCamillo
Info:Candlewick (2002), Paperback, 128 pages
Collections:Classroom Storage
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The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo (2001)

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In this middle grade classic, Rob Horton, 12, has moved with his dad to Lister, Florida following the death of his mom six months earlier. They temporarily live at the Kentucky Star Motel, where Rob’s dad does maintenance work.

Sixth grade is difficult for Rob. Besides (and related to) his emotional state, he has suffered from a bad rash on his legs for the past six months. That and his outsider status (as demonstrated by his living in Florida but at the “Kentucky Star Motel”) leads the other kids to shun him, and he is constantly bullied by two brothers, the Threemongers.

One day another new student arrives, Sistine Bailey, and she too is the object of derision. She is full of anger over the abandonment of her father; she vehemently insists he will be back in a week to get her.

Rob and Sistine form a natural alliance, especially after Rob tells Sistine his biggest secret: there is a tiger in a cage in back of the motel. The proprietor is paying Rob extra to go feed the tiger every day.

The housekeeper of the motel, Willie May, a kind of wise woman/mother figure, tells Rob he has the rash because he is “keeping all that sadness down low, in your legs.” He needs, she advises him, to let it “get up to your heart, where it belongs.” But Rob keeps all his negative emotions in a metaphorical suitcase that he locked shut and refused to open.

Willie May has words of wisdom for Sistine as well:

“..you all full of anger, got it snapping out of you like lightning. . . . I got some advice for you. I already gave this boy some advice. You ready for yours? . . . This is it: Ain’t nobody going to come and rescue you. . . You got to rescue yourself.”

Both of the kids have to free themselves, and in determining to free the tiger, they symbolically opt to rid themselves of all that has been caging them.

If the book ended there, it would have made more obvious sense, but would not have been, perhaps, entirely true to life. DiCamillo adds a coda that suggests the ambiguity, complexity, and often unfair outcome of much of life.

Evaluation: DiCamillo is a prize-winning author; this book, for example, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has served as the National Ambassador for Young people’s Literature, and as "Time Magazine" stated, “understands that children can handle the tough stuff in fiction….” But the message of this story may be opaque to some kids; it would therefore make an excellent book for discussion in schools. ( )
  nbmars | Aug 13, 2016 |
Like her earlier work, Because of Winn Dixie, which was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2001, this slim children's novel is set in Florida, and follows the story of a young person coping with an absent mother and a distant father. In The Tiger Rising, Rob Horton, still reeling from the death of his mother, and recently moved to a new town, is confronted with bullying at his new school. His father, also deeply bereaved, has made it very clear that Rob is not to express his grief, not to cry. Then two extraordinary things happen: Rob comes across a caged tiger in the woods near the hotel where he is living, and he meets a feisty new girl, Sistine (named for the chapel), who doesn't believe in reserve. Will Rob free the tiger, as Sistine insists they must... and if he does, what will happen?

A moving book, one which chronicles one boy's journey from silent grief through cathartic rage, and then his entry into gradual healing, The Tiger Rising reminded me (as already noted) of Because of Winn Dixie. In that other work, the adoption of a stray dog leads to an opening of the relationship between a child and her father. Here, the finding and eventual killing of a tiger leads to a moment of dramatic confrontation, in which Rob finally expresses himself to his father, opening the floodgates of both of their griefs. Although a brief book, I liked the characterization here. I like that Rob's father is depicted as deeply flawed - he hits Rob (only once that the narrative reveals), and doesn't really know how to take care of him - but also deeply loving. I also liked the character of Willie May, whose humor and humanity come across very well. Recommended to anyone looking for children's stories about grief, family, and friendship. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jun 29, 2016 |
Too short - I wanted more exploration of the themes and characters. My 14 yo son loved it also. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Kate DiCamillo writes another touching but not treacly book about difficulties in childhood and rising to face them. Loved it, especially since all the main characters had flaws but were likable. I appreciate showing the slow processes of both friendship and grieving. ( )
  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
Six months after the death of his mother, 12-year-old Rob moves with his dad from Jacksonville to small town Lister, Florida. Rob's father does not encourage his son to express his feelings so Rob buries his grief and emotion inside but it manifests itself as angry red itchy spots on his legs. While exploring the area around the Kentucky Star Hotel where Rob and his father now live Rob comes across a caged tiger next to an abandoned gas station. The tiger belongs to the hotel's owner and he pays Rob to feed the animal every day handing over the keys to the tiger's cage. Rob is temporarily out of school due to the principal's belief that the rash on Rob's legs might be contagious to the other students. He is secretly relieved to be absent as he was the constant target of bullies at school and on the bus. Another victim of the bullies, Sistine, becomes Rob's friend and he shares the secret of the tiger with her. Sistine immediately demands that he release the animal but Rob is reluctant. Can Sistine convince her friend to help the tiger?

This was a well written junior fiction novel with very likeable characters. The tiger is an obvious simile for Rob's caged emotions and his conflict over releasing both makes this an interesting story. I happened to find the tiger's presence outside an abandoned gas station a bit strange, however. I do like DiCamillo's books and will definitely read more.
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kate DiCamilloprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baker, DylanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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That morning, after he discovered the tiger, Rob went and stood under the Kentucky Star Motel sign and waited for the school bus just like it was any other day.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0763618985, Paperback)

Kate DiCamillo's first novel Because of Winn-Dixie won a Newbery Honor in 2000 for the no-nonsense charm and wisdom of its down-home young heroine, Opal. Also set in Florida, The Tiger Rising is more of a short story in scope, the tale of 12-year-old Rob Horton who finds a caged tiger in the woods behind the Kentucky Star Motel where he lives with his dad. The tiger is so incongruous in this setting, Rob views the apparition as some sort of magic trick. Indeed, the tiger triggers all sorts of magic in Rob's life--for one thing, it takes his mind off his recently deceased mother and the itchy red blisters on his legs that the wise motel housekeeper, Willie May, says is a manifestation of the sadness that Rob keeps "down low."

Something else for Rob to think about is Sistine (as in the chapel), a new city girl with fierce black eyes who challenges him to be honest with her and himself. Spurred by the tiger, events collide to break Rob out of his silent introspection, to form a new friendship with Sistine, a new understanding with his father, and most important, to lighten his heart. This novel is about cages--the consequences of escape as well as imprisonment. The story and symbolism are clear as a bell, and the emotions ring true. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:04 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Rob, who passes the time in his rural Florida community by wood carving, is drawn by his spunky but angry friend Sistine into a plan to free a caged tiger.

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Editions: 0763618985, 0763609110

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