Reviews for Tiger Rising


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 June 2001
Gr. 5-7. Sixth-grader Rob Horton's wishes and his feelings are tamped down tightly: the rash that covers his legs is only one outward sign of his torment. He and his father live at the Kentucky Star Motel in Lister, Florida, trying to escape the memories of Mama's death. Rob is bullied at school, and his craven principal calls him "contagious" because of his rash and sends him home, but not before Rob meets the new girl at school and finds a tiger in a cage in the woods near the motel. The new girl is named Sistine, after the chapel where her parents met; she is as full of anger as Rob is of sorrow. The very real tiger functions exquisitely as a symbol for these two damaged children, as do the carvings Rob whittles with the skill his mama gave him. There are other metaphors that are more heavy-handed: Rob locking his bad feelings in a suitcase, upon which the tiger sits. The story deftly shows the anxiety and suspense of getting close to someone after experience has taught you that may not be safe to do. DiCamillo's gorgeous language wastes not a single word: spare and taut her sentences spin out, with the Florida mist rising off them, and unspoken words finally said aloud. ((Reviewed June 1 & 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Fall
Rob Horton has ""a way of not-thinking about things,"" including his mother's recent death. His life changes when he discovers a caged tiger in the woods and meets an emotionally volatile new classmate. Though overwhelmed by heavy-handed symbolism and sentimentality, the brief novel, which features a well-realized setting and an almost palpable aura of sadness, has a certain mythic quality. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2001 #3
This tale of loss and redemption concerns a lonely child, an absent mother, an emotionally reserved father, and an animal that serves as a catalyst for change and renewal. Though that bare-bones description could also apply to the author's Newbery Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie (rev. 7/00), the two novels are strikingly different in tone and impact. Robert Horton and his father have moved to the rural town of Lister, Florida, after the death of Rob's mother. Living at the Kentucky Star Motel, where his father is employed, the sixth-grader has "a way of not-thinking about things." He suppresses his grief over his mother's death, ignores the mysterious rash on his legs, and tries not to worry about the bullies who torment him at school. Early one morning, Rob discovers a caged tiger hidden in the woods behind the hotel. Minutes later, he meets a new classmate, Sistine Bailey, on the schoolbus. Angry at her parents for separating, and clinging to the unrealistic hope that her father is going to return for her, Sistine is as emotionally volatile as Rob is subdued. Their prickly friendship comes to center on the caged tiger in the woods, which Rob learns was given to his father's employer to pay off a debt. In a plan that seems more ordained by thematic purpose than fully understood or explained by the participants, the two young people decide to free the tiger from its cage-an act that is emotionally liberating, if ultimately tragic. The brief novel, which features a well-realized setting and an almost palpable aura of sadness, has a certain mythic quality. However, the spare prose is weighed down with significance; even Rob's troublesome rash is described by the motel's maid as "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." Heavy-handed symbolism and sentimentality overwhelm the book's limited characterizations and quiet, almost remote, omniscient voice. Unlike the outgoing dog that cohered Because of Winn-Dixie, the caged animal that serves as this novel's central metaphor never seems more than a paper tiger. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Magazine

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Kirkus Reviews 2001 February #1
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'sdream 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, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 January #3
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.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 July #5
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.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2001 March
Gr 4-6-A multifaceted story with characters who will tug at readers' hearts. Rob and his father moved to Lister, FL, to try to begin life anew without Rob's mother, who recently died from cancer. The boy goes through his days like a sleepwalker, with little or no visible emotion. "He made all his feelings go inside the suitcase; he stuffed them in tight and then sat on the suitcase and locked it shut." His sadness permeates the story; even the weather, with its constant dreary drizzle is sad. With the arrival of a new student, Sistine Bailey, Rob's self-contained world begins to crumble. He and Sistine are both friendless and victims of the cruelty often shown outsiders at school. The principal, worried about contagion, decides that Rob should remain at home until the rash on his legs improves. Rob appreciates the respite and Sistine appears daily on the pretense of bringing him his homework. She seems to have the keys to unlock the suitcase on Rob's "not-wishes and not-thoughts." When the boy finds a caged tiger in the woods, he recognizes a similarity between himself and the animal. Then the sleazy owner of the motel where Rob and his dad are living gives him the responsibility of feeding the creature, and Rob realizes he finally holds in his hands the keys to freedom. Quotes from William Blake's "The Tiger" intimate themselves into the narrative and set the tone. This slender story is lush with haunting characters and spare descriptions, conjuring up vivid images. It deals with the tough issues of death, grieving, and the great accompanying sadness, and has enough layers to embrace any reader.-Kit Vaughan, Midlothian Middle School, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2001 August
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 too-a 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.-Leslie Carter. 5Q 4P M Copyright 2001 Voya Reviews

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