I recently discovered that there was a novel by Kate DiCamillo that I hadn't read yet, so I did, and I liked it. The Tiger Rising feels more like a short story to me. Obviously it's longer, but that's just the feel. I read a quote about DiCamillo when I was researching the order of her novels (I'll get to that in a minute,) that said she was "opting for the economy of poetry over elaborate prose." I agree.
The Tiger Rising is Kate DiCamillo's second novel. Because of Winn-Dixie was her first. Which I also didn't know. I think it remains my favorite. I read The Journey of Edward Tulane, and The Tale of Despereaux back to back awhile ago, and while I liked them, they were dark and tragic. The Tiger Rising is too. Rob is the 12-year-old main character, and is treated horribly by many characters. He has recently lost his mother and his father is distant and harsh. He discovers a tiger in a cage in the forest, a new friend at school, and gets great advice from a woman who works as a maid at the hotel he lives in. I especially liked his imagining and dreaming.
I have been trying to think of the target audience for this book. I love that DiCamillo's books all seem to have a magic element. Part fairy tale, part morality tale, and full of symbolism and metaphors. They seem like children's books, upper elementary I'd guess, but have such meaningful themes and layers of meaning that I think kids of that age would miss a lot of what I think is great. With this book in particular I could see high school students studying it and looking for meanings within the different symbols.
The writing is so nice. Here are a couple excerpts that I like and I think represent the book.
"He imagined himself as a suitcase that was too full.....He made all his feelings go inside the suitcase; he stuffed them in tight and then sat on the suitcase and locked it shut....Sometimes it was hard to keep the suitcase shut."
"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 sounded right. If God was going to talk though somebody, it made sense to Rob that he would pick Willie May."
"That was another truth he had known without knowing it, the same as he had known that Sistine's father was not coming back. He must, he realized, know somewhere, deep inside him, more things than he had ever dreamed of."