After Rob's mother dies, he and his father move to a new town to get a fresh start, he discovers a caged tiger in the woods. An emotionally rich story about a boy caught in the powerful grip of grief. Ages 8-up. (Aug.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
DiCamillo's second novel may not be as humorous as her debut, Because of Winn-Dixie, but it is just as carefully structured, and her ear is just as finely tuned to her characters. In the first chapter, readers learn that Rob lost his mother six months ago; his father has uprooted their lives from Jacksonville to Lister, Fla.; the boy hates school; and his father's boss, Beauchamp, is keeping a caged wild tiger at Beauchamp's abandoned gas station. The author characterizes Rob by what he does not do ("Rob had a way of not-thinking about things"; "He was a pro at not-crying"), and the imprisoned tiger becomes a metaphor for the thoughts and feelings he keeps trapped inside. Two other characters, together with the tiger, act as catalyst for Rob's change: a new classmate, Sistine ("like the chapel"), who believes that her father will rescue her someday and take her back to Pennsylvania, and Willie May, a wise and compassionate woman who works as a chambermaid at Beauchamp's hotel. The author delves deeply into the psyches of her cast with carefully choreographed scenes, opting for the economy of poetry over elaborate prose. The climax is sudden and brief, mimicking the surge of emotion that overtakes Rob, who can finally embrace life rather than negate it. DiCamillo demonstrates her versatility by treating themes similar to those of her first novel with a completely different approach. Readers will eagerly anticipate her next work. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
DiCamillo is a Newbery Honor author for Because of Winn-Dixie and someone whose writing defies categories. The Tiger Rising is about two twelve-year-old friends, which would seem at face value to limit the audience for this book to childrennot even YAs. And yes, older children would like the story on one level, but so would YAs and adults, reading it from a different perspective but appreciating it fully. The cover sets the mood: a hazy view of a tiger, a boy, and a girl in a forest, the girl riding the tiger and the whole looking like a tale of fantasysomething like a story of a unicorn. We meet the boy and his father, wounded people mourning the death of the boy's mother some months ago. The father has forbidden the boy to speak of the death, not out of cruelty, just ignorance and pain. Rob is bullied terribly at school, suffers from a disfiguring skin rash, and gets his only comfort and solace from carving wood as his mother taught him to do, and from the wisdom and care of Willie May who cleans rooms at the rundown motel where Rob's father works. One day a fierce girl comes to town, angry and bitter at her parents' divorce. Her name is Sistine (named after the Sistine Chapel in Rome where her parents met). She becomes Rob's ally, probably because it gives her an excuse to fight. The owner of the motel, a redneck if there ever was one, has obtained a tiger that he keeps in a cage in the woods and hires Rob to feed it. The children are convinced they must free the tiger, which provides the catalyst they need to get beyond their own fettersemotional ones. The writing is spare, poetic, moving. The setting, rural Florida, seems vividly real as DiCamillo describes it.The story has a timeless quality about it, which reminds me of the book Sounder, for example. I'm sure it will speak powerfully to many readers of all ages. KLIATT Codes: JSA*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Candlewick, 116p, 99-088635, $12.99. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
While not as humorous as Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo has created another multi-layered story about dealing with loss, "letting sadness rise on up," and embracing life. Rather than confronting his grief, twelve-year-old Rob Horton lets nothing get to him — neither bullies at his new school, nor his rash, nor living in the Kentucky Star hotel! After his mom's death, Rob packed away his complicated feelings in a bulging suitcase. Even his mom's name brings heartache, until he discovers a tiger in the woods. This caged, pacing tiger serves as a hauntingly fierce metaphor for his deep grief throughout the book. Willie May, a hotel maid, plays prophetess in offering Rob advice. The new girl Sistine teaches him to defy ridicule. Even his hollowed-out dad finally realizes Rob needs help in facing Caroline's death. In sparse, tight prose, DiCamillo quietly weaves the extraordinary alongside the universal in this symbolic and sensitive story of letting the tiger rise on up. 2001, Candlewick Press, 116 pp.,
Sherron Killingsworth Roberts
Another winning novel by the author of Newbery 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick, 2000), this story of loss and healing follows twelve-year-old Rob Horton as he grieves for his dead mother and learns that to survive the cinch around his heart, he must let his pain go. In the opening scene, Rob finds a caged tiger in the woods, a beautiful golden animal that paces away his captive days. At school, Rob befriends the new girl, Sistine, and she insists that together they must set the tiger free. The tiger as the symbol of Rob's pent-up grief will not be lost on young students. Neither will they miss the wisdom handed down throughout the story by the chambermaid at the motel where Rob and his father, the motel handyman, live. Willie May knows that the horrible, itchy rash on Rob's legs is the manifestation of his anguish. She tells him, "You keeping all that sadness down low, in your legs. You not letting it get up to your heart, where it belongs. You got to let that sadness rise on up." By the end of the story, Rob is finally able to say his mother's name aloud, and he demands that his father say it tooa simple act that begins the healing process for both of them. This short novel will be especially useful for those students dealing with the loss of a loved one, but fine stories are rare, and this one will be read eagerly by all audiences. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Candlewick Press, 116p, $12.99. Ages 12 to 14. Reviewer: Leslie Carter SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
Fresh on the heels of her Newbery Honor award for Because of Winn Dixie comes DiCamillo's latest, The Tiger Rising. DiCamillo has a talent for getting inside the heads of lonely children and figuring out exactly where their pain is. In this book, we meet Rob who lives in a motel with his father as they are trying to get themselves on their feet following Mom's death. Rob is desperately unhappy as he tries to cope with his loss and finds that pretending nothing is wrong is the safest way to go. He likens it to putting all of his problems into a stuffed suitcase and sitting on the lid. School is a nightmare for Rob, where he is the victim of two awful bullies. When the principal suggests that he take some time off while a rash on his legs heals, Rob feels like he has been sprung from prison. On his last day of school two important things happen, he finds a tiger in a cage and he meets Sistine. Sistine is a kindred spirit who is also dealing with the loss of her father due to divorce. It is their friendship and the voice of reason¾an adult friend at the motel named Willie May¾that starts the healing process. Like Because of Winn Dixie, the writing is deceptively simple and sparse. The characters are well drawn and very believable. While the story is a sad one it ultimately becomes one of hope, as these two lost souls begin to mend. Artfully executed, this short novel is a treat for the heart and soul. 2001, Candlewick Press, . Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Joan Kindig
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Kate DiCamillo's novel (Candlewick, 2001) is about the distances between people, and the giant leaps of faith that are sometimes needed to bridge those distances. Rife with symbolism, this story focuses on Rob's losses--not just of his mother who died of cancer, but his loss of his father, who is struggling with his own grief. Rob has two talents: keeping his emotions under cover, and carving wood into beautiful shapes. Life at the Kentucky Star Motel in rural Florida, where Rob's father works as a handyman, is lonely and bleak until a caged tiger appears in the woods and a new friend helps to open Rob's heart. Sistine, the new girl at school, also suffers, but she is alive with raw emotions and spunk. She and Rob form a friendship, and together they set out to free the tiger whose caged existence represents their own limited horizons. Film and Broadway actor Dylan Baker reads with a gentle drawl, changing his voice just enough to breath life into the characters. Even so, the characters remain rather contrived. In particular, the figure of the tiger is not vividly portrayed, partly because it carries more symbolic weight than the story can plausibly sustain. DiCamillo's somewhat heavy-handed symbolism leads to an inconclusive climax that ends with Rob's father shooting the tiger after Rob and Sistine release it. The sacrifice of the tiger as a condition for Rob's bonding with his father and his emergence as a character is not an ending that will appeal to animal lovers.-Emily Herman, Hutchinson Elementary School, Atlanta, GA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent,feralpresence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)
Read an Excerpt
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. The Kentucky Star sign was composed of a yellow neon star that rose and fell over a piece of blue neon in the shape of the state of Kentucky. Rob liked the sign; he harbored a dim but abiding notion that it would bring him good luck.
Finding the tiger had been luck, he knew that. He had been out in the woods behind the Kentucky Star Motel, way out in the woods, not really looking for anything, just wandering, hoping that maybe he would get lost or get eaten by a bear and not have to go to school ever again. That’s when he saw the old Beauchamp gas station building, all boarded up and tumbling down; next to it, there was a cage, and inside the cage, unbelievably, there was a tiger--a real-life, very large tiger pacing back and forth. He was orange and gold and so bright, it was like staring at the sun itself, angry and trapped in a cage.
It was early morning and it looked like it might rain; it had been raining every day for almost two weeks. The sky was gray and the air was thick and still. Fog was hugging the ground. To Rob, it seemed as if the tiger was some magic trick, rising out of the mist. He was so astounded at his discovery, so amazed, that he stood and stared. But only for a minute; he was afraid to look at the tiger for too long, afraid that the tiger would disappear. He stared, and then he turned and ran back into the woods, toward the Kentucky Star. And the whole way home, while his brain doubted what he had seen, his heart beat out the truth to him. Ti-ger. Ti-ger. Ti-ger.
That was what Rob thought about as he stood beneath the Kentucky Star sign and waited for the bus. The tiger. He did not think about the rash on his legs, the itchy red blisters that snaked their way into his shoes. His father said that it would be less likely to itch if he didn’t think about it.
And he did not think about his mother. He hadn’t thought about her since the morning of the funeral, the morning he couldn’t stop crying the great heaving sobs that made his chest and stomach hurt. His father, watching him, standing beside him, had started to cry, too.
They were both dressed up in suits that day; his father’s suit was too small. And when he slapped Rob to make him stop crying, he ripped a hole underneath the arm of his jacket.
"There ain’t no point in crying," his father had said afterward. "Crying ain’t going to bring her back."
It had been six months since that day, six months since he and his father had moved from Jacksonville to Lister, and Rob had not cried since, not once.
The final thing he did not think about that morning was getting onto the bus. He specifically did not think about Norton and Billy Threemonger waiting for him like chained and starved guard dogs, eager to attack.
Rob had a way of not-thinking about things. He imagined himself as a suitcase that was too full, like the one that he had packed when they left Jacksonville after the funeral. He made all his feelings go inside the suitcase; he stuffed them in tight and then sat on the suitcase and locked it shut. That was the way he not-thought about things. Sometimes it was hard to keep the suitcase shut. But now he had something to put on top of it. The tiger.
So as he waited for the bus under the Kentucky Star sign, and as the first drops of rain fell from the sullen sky, Rob imagined the tiger on top of his suitcase, blinking his golden eyes, sitting proud and strong, unaffected by all the not-thoughts inside straining to come out.
The Tiger Rising. Copyright (c) 2001 Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press, Inc. Cambridge, MA