Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Tiger Rising - Kate DiCamillo

Summary:  The Tiger Rising is 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 that 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, to develop a new understanding of his father, and most important, to lighten his heart.  (Summary from http://www.2scholastic.com/ - Image from http://www.betterworldbooks.com/  )


My Review:  It seems that Kate DiCamillo can do no wrong.  I've read (and loved) Because of Winn Dixie and we've reviewed The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane with positive praise.  I found The Tiger Rising at a local used book store and knew it would be good -- most National Book Award finalists are -- but I had no idea it would knock my socks off.  I mean, it's little.  Tiny.  Miniscule.  

The Tiger Rising is a stunningly expressive tale, thick with emotion and beautifully written.  While the plot itself was quite simple -- perfect for the 9-12 reader -- I feel that a child might not understand the symbolism or appreciate the elegant language and emotional nuances.  They can read it, of course, but I think that an adult might get more out of it. 

The Tiger Rising is populated with a vibrant cast of characters, but my absolute favorite was the housekeeper, Willie May.  She exuded wisdom, sass, and a fierce independence that is evident in one of my favorite lines of the book, "I ain't got to do nothing, except stay black and die."   She is by no means the only fabulous character.  Rob is one tough little kid, but eventually he'll have to open that suitcase.  His father is kind, but barely holding it together.  And Sistine?  Well, Sistine might be in denial, but she still rocks.  Several of these characters work through a spectrum of emotions in this book and, while the story and its the ending were bittersweet, it had the effect of being a very cathartic read.  I felt lighter after I'd read it.

This book is a great gymnastics/karate/dance class read.  Basically, you can read it in under an hour if you don't have kids poking you.  So drop them off, lock yourself in the car, and have at it.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars

Sum it up:  A tiny book that packs a powerful punch.

1 comment:

Monica said...

My daughter and I started this book together but she wanted to go off and read it herself - sounds like I need to pick it back up. I was pleasantly surprise with Because of Winn Dixie - which I also think is a fabulous read for all adults. Sounds like her books are interesting enough for kids but may resonate more with older readers as well - I enjoy a quick book that makes you think and contemplate.

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