Kathy Roderer's Reviews > The Tiger Rising

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
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's review
Oct 18, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary-realistic-fiction
Read in October, 2009

The Tiger Rising is a complex book, rich in fascinating characters, an unlikely situation, and symbolism. Rob Horton, whose mother died, has moved with his father to another town in Florida, where they are temporarily staying in a motel until his father finds work. Rob buries his deep sadness “in a suitcase” and strives to never let it out. He comes to know a friend, Sistine, who also is new to town and is wrestling with her own personal and family issues. Whereas Rob is struggling with grief and loss, Sistine’s deep anger and frustration with her absent father color all of her plans and relationships. For both children, the tiger in the cage becomes a metaphor for their own desire for freedom from their problems and an acceptance of what cannot be changed. In the end, they learn the value of friendship, family, and honesty. This book seems much different from some of DiCamillo’s other books. It’s shorter, both sad and serious, and a little confusing for young children during the first read, unless they have some adult support and discussion. I think it would be a great book for introducing higher level thinking skills, such as inferencing, metaphors, and interpretation of symbols. Topics to include in prereading discussion to prepare background knowledge would be the Sistine Chapel and the William Blake poem, “Tyger”.
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message 1: by Sarah (last edited Oct 18, 2009 03:18PM) (new)

Sarah Wow. That certainly does sound complex. I noticed on this site it says the book is only 128 pages. Do you think it would have been easier to understand if the book had been longer? Do you think it would have benefited the reader to have more information about some things such as characters, motive, background, etc? Both the ideas of a down-on-their-luck father and son living in a motel, as well as the metaphor of a tiger kept in a cage, do seem thought-provoking for a novel. Do you think the author had a certain audience/ level of reading in mind (again looking at the length of the book compared to the level of complexity) but yet had missed the mark? (I had a bit of that feeling with her other book, The Tale of Despereaux. It was a good story in all, but the style and structure of the story seemed incongruous with some of the high level vocabulary words she threw in here and there.)

Kathy Roderer Great questions! Yes, I think if it were longer, it may be easier to understand, because the reader would be getting a little more complete background on the characters. For example, if the story began with the mom's funeral or illness, instead of flashing back to it so late in the book, maybe Rob's sadness would make more sense. Also, we know almost nothing about Rob's dad, or Sistine's dad, for that matter, which seems strange. Things just happen out of the blue, like the tiger all of a sudden being there. I had to go back and reread the page before to see what I had missed, leading up to it, but I hadn't missed anything! Now that you mention it, Despereaux does use flash backs, too. It goes back and forth in the time and setting. I am finding this book useful with my high readers who don't often have to go back or reread a section. It is also great with questioning. In the first chapter alone, we came up with about a dozen questions about things that were confusing, needed clarifying, or that we just wondered about. I'm betting that very few of my students will catch the symbolism later on.

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