I have to say this was not really my thing. The whole time I was reading it I kept thinking yup, this is exactly the sort of thing adults would get all excited to push on elementary school students (Oh, the symbolism! The emotional progression!), but as a child I would have hated it. I would have come away thinking that the book started bleak, had little story, stayed pretty darn bleak, and nothing good survived. Guess I was more of a Little House and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory kind of kid.
This is the third DiCamillo book I have read. I really enjoyed both "The Magician's Elephant" and "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane". I liked this book too, although not as much as the others of hers that I have read.
Rob Horton's mom died and then his dad decided they should move to Florida, where they currently reside in the Kentucky Derby Star Motel. Rob has a perpetual rash on his legs, and is constantly being beat up by the boys at school. His gloomy life changes when two things happen; first he finds a tiger caged in the woods and second he meets a girl called Sistine.
This is more of a novella than an actual full-length novel. It is not as magical or atmospheric as the other two DiCamillo novels I have read. DiCamillo does do a good job capturing how it feels for a young boy to be sad and alone.
The majority of this book deals with children trying to cope with strong emotions. Rob is perpetually sad because of his mom's death and his dad won't let Rob talk about it. Sistine is perpetually angry at the world because of her dad cheating on her mom. Somehow Rob and Sistine strike an odd friendship that focuses around this tiger they find in the woods.
The tiger is more of a symbol than anything in the story. In the end Rob and Sistine both find ways to cope with their emotions through events that happen with the tiger. The book is more of a fable from this aspect.
I love DiCamillo's writing style. This book does a very good job of showing children the right and wrong way to cope with sadness and anger. It would be a good story for younger children. Not my favorite of DiCamillo's though. I would definitely check out one of her other novels if you are a first time DiCamillo reader.
This is a wonderful story - I really enjoyed it - but I would have waited to read it to my 7 year old daughter until she was a little older had I know the themes of the book would be so mature. DiCamillo writes about real raw life and the kids who live it. In this story she covers the painful loss of a parent, the temptation to stuff all that emotion, friendship and love, and the way adults fail children. All in one little book! Really powerful story for a young adult audience.
DiCamillo's other stories are great as well. The Tale of Despereaux is a beautiful story. Then Edward Tulane which is a little more heavy/adult themed, but still sad and beautiful and thought provoking.